December 03, 2012

Tortoise gene therapy

The tortoise and the hare fable has been a highly popular meme by surviving hundreds of generations (since ancient Greece), yet we tend to completely disregard the moral of the tale in practice.

Our obsession with speed has been constantly on the rise ever since the industrial revolution, and despite knowing the destructive consequences we continue to snowball our pace as if there is no tomorrow.

You certainly don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that speed kills; it only takes one hard-hitting road safety ad campaign, as they don’t leave much to the imagination.

When you think of it, almost everything we have ever sped up (possibly as an intentional ‘improvement’) has turned out more harmful than useful. Take fast food for instance, which brought upon us the globesity epidemic (just to point out one major knock-on effect out of many). And fast fashion? As if using and dumping vast amounts of toxic chemicals in our waterways in order to speed up the production process wasn’t bad enough, the recent Toxic Threads report by Greenpeace uncovers traces of harmful substances in the clothes and shoes of some of the most popular high street fashion brands.

Everyone knows that cutting corners tends to lead to poorer quality, but more critically it endangers our environment too (if you can imagine all the corners that have ever been cut - piled up in one place). As long as companies can get away with ecocide, and as long as there aren’t any clear incentives or rewards to slow down, companies would find it hard to compromise ‘unnecessarily’. The bigger the company the harder it is for them to alter their operating system.

Perhaps this is one advantage of having a small operation- it’s relatively easy to change, and it’s even easier when you start from scratch. As the meaning of our brand name suggests (‘pause’), the very reason we started our business six years ago was to emphasise the importance of slowing down our hectic lifestyle and at the same time trying our best to ‘pause’ harming the environment too. As shoe production methods vary enormously in regards to their environmental impact, by and large the slower processes (such as stitching as oppose to gluing for instance) prove less harmful and are ultimately more sustainable.

You have probably never heard of ‘slow shoes’ before (perhaps because it doesn’t sound particularly appealing- shoes that slow you down??), but more likely you have come across the term slow fashion, and slow food. These two positive movements are part of a global force of good to promote slowness as a way to make things better, more sustainable, more resilient, and ultimately to make us happier. 

In praise of the person with possibly the highest concentration of tortoise genes in the world; the slowness grand master Carl Honore, we’d love to spread his fun and wise words. Check out this great TED talk and learn how slowness can be not just appealing but even sexy! 

The good news is that we are soon about to switch into a slowness mode during our rare allocated holiday period, and so perhaps we should try and maintain part of this feature in the new year and be reminded that ‘slow and steady wins the race’.

Oh, and by the way, have you noticed that the lifespan of the tortoise is much longer than the hare? Some even outlive humans!