Hello! how are you all doing? My migraines have been of the annoyingly recurrent / chronic kind of late, and I’ve been having to take things very easy – especially over the past week or so, during which my vision has been very skewy and I’ve had to limit my screen time.
Not being glued to a screen is not a necessarily bad thing, however, and I’ve been able to work away on the design samples for my new collection, while enjoying listening to some new audio books. During this period of reduced activity, in which I’ve had to accept things slowing down a little (as I’ve had to do many times in many different contexts in the years following my stroke) it seemed appropriate that one of the books I read was Slowdown, by Danny Dorling.
Over the past few months I’ve found More or Less to be a rare beacon of sanity and clarity, and have rather enjoyed the way this programme prompts listeners to think critically about how we read, interpret, or (all too often) blindly accept statistical data. Perhaps I picked out Dorling’s Slowdown, then, because I was somehow in the mood for more statistics (this is certainly a book which features a lot of carefully analysed data) or perhaps I was simply intrigued by its premise – that the world is not, as we all now seem to think, speeding up, but is in fact beginning to decelerate.
In this book, Dorling, a geographer and demographer, reveals how, while the past couple of hundred years have undoubtedly witnessed a great acceleration by every social, economic and environmental measure you might imagine, rates of growth have now slowed significantly with only a handful of exceptions such as the rate of carbon pollution (which still doubles every couple of decades) and the globe’s surface temperature (which increases every year).
I’m not a natural reader of graphs and statistics, and this book necessitated quite a bit of thinking through and chewing over for me. But all of this slow reading and thinking time was definitely worthwhile.
This book introduced me to some genuinely new perspectives on a wide range of things, from the global effects of women’s control of their own fertility, to what technological progress or innovation might really mean. I found myself thinking differently about global demographics; wrestling with some issues about creativity, community and consumerism that I’ve long been mulling over; and reflecting on something I’ve long felt from a personal / small business perspective as well as a broader economic one: that sustainability is a far better measure of success than continual, unfettered growth (boo to GDP).
Dorling shows how the global slowdown is here to stay and that its progress (such as it is) is completely inevitable: humanity has no choice but to accept, and live with, deceleration and its effects. Dorling’s evidence is convincing, and I found the arguments he marshalls in light of that evidence deeply heartening and optimistic. Slowdown reveals a world in which we are all simply going to have to accept having much less stuff, but where that stuff is invariably better shared about. For me, this vision of a sustainable and much more equal future provided a very refreshing counterpoint to the one that’s presented in another book I recently read: Mark O’Connell’s Notes from an Apocalypse, which is full of the horrors of Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, preppers, disaster tourists, and millenarian fantasies of a hideous future of eternal youth and space travel that appears to be mostly white and largely masculine. O’Connell’s book is also worth reading (there are many moments of horrified fascination) but unlike any brief encounter with the ideas and activities of Peter Thiel, Dorling’s book left me feeling more positive and pragmatic than I’ve done for quite a while.
I’ve slowed down a bit in recent weeks, but that’s absolutely fine.
Summer continues with days of low cloud, heavy heat, and occasional rain. The chicks in the housemartin nest beneath our bedroom window wake me up each morning and every day I think I might have heard the last cuckoo, before I’m stopped in my tracks by a random single call (the last one just this morning). I think our swans haven’t bred successfully this year (perhaps the nest was found by foxes again?) but each evening the loch is dotted with goslings and tiny coots.
I’m enjoying my slow paced, slowdown walks. I’m enjoying the slow growing garden, with its tasty spinach, chard and salad leaves.
I hope you are enjoying some slow time too.
I’ll be back again on Friday, with (I hope) another design to show you.
Books mentioned in this post
Danny Dorling, Slowdown, The End of the Great Acceleration and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy and Our Lives (Yale UP, 2020) (ISBN:9780300243406)
Mark O’Connell, Notes from An Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back (Granta, 2020) (ISBN: 978178378)