“The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.”
~ A Tribute to the Heart ~
After preparations for the beach bonfire and evening meal were complete, I observed Lua quietly detach from the group and go for a long walk by herself. She took her ukulele with her. When she returned, I asked her if something was wrong. She looked at me with a puzzled expression, smiled, and said, “Oh no, Mister Rico … well, not anymore.”
“What do you mean ‘not anymore’?” I asked.
“I always find it a little stressful to meet many new people all at once. I am somewhat of an introvert, in case you hadn’t noticed. But walking helps me reduce stress and feel better whenever I feel overwhelmed. I love walking.”
She went on to explain that, at home, she takes long walks every day. “Walking is the best possible exercise. Everybody who is able should walk every day as a tribute to the heart,” Lua said. “Walking is a simple, accessible way to reduce stress, get fresh air, recharge the mind, and reconnect with neighbors and with the natural world—and enhance overall well-being. Walking is magical that way. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
I’d read that Plato and Aristotle did much of their best thinking together while walking. The movement, the meditation, the flow of the blood pumping, and the rhythm of footsteps … it is often touted as an elegant, simple, natural way to connect with one’s deeper self.
“Well, sure. Exercise—especially slow, repetitive exercise—is really great; it is therapeutic,” I followed. “Whenever I’m feeling tense or stressed or like I’m about to have a meltdown, I’ll get on my bike and go for a long ride. It works wonders. In fact, I get some of my best song ideas while riding. It is said that Einstein claimed to have come up with the essence of his theory of relativity while riding a bicycle!”
“That does not surprise me,” Lua replied. “Exercise has a calming effect on the mind. And a calm mind helps random, silly little ideas mix and mingle and merge into big beautiful ideas.”
I also knew that medical professionals promoted exercise as the most effective way to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many more problems.
Our bodies have evolved to move, yet we now overuse the immense cheap and easy energy released from combusting oil and other fossil fuels instead of using our own muscles to do any physical work—especially getting our bodies around locally from place to place.
I had read that, statistically, walking is actually far safer than driving in terms of fatalities. It’s curious that so many parents insist on driving their kids around in order to keep them safe from potential kidnappers, and yet car accidents are the leading cause of death for children in the United States between ages one and nineteen.
And people who walk in their communities get to know the people in them better. They pay more attention to their surroundings and are less likely to get lost.
Numerous centenarians have touted walking as their key to longevity, noting that it helps them stay active and independent. One WWII veteran I read about was delivering papers until very late in life. He said that, to enjoy a long life, all one has to do is keep walking.
For Lua, walking was a way to reconnect with herself, her natural surroundings, and her inner truth. She argued that walking was a great way to alleviate some of the symptoms of ‘Nature deficit disorder’ endemic to many ‘advanced’ economies, and it was a vital activity for any truly ‘eco-literate’ society.
~ Ecoliteracy ~
Ecoliteracy, as Lua explained it, implies having an understanding of the principles of organization of ecosystems and using those principles to serve as a guide when designing intelligent sustainable human communities.
An ecologically literate society is a society having a heightened awareness of its impact on the environment and therefore less likely to inadvertently destroy the natural world on which it depends.
Lua believed that best hope for re-learning to live sustainably begins with schooling that returns to the basics by actively engaging with the natural world to understand how Nature sustains life.
Ecoliteracy offers an integrated approach to addressing environmental challenges. In essence, it represents a new educational paradigm emerging around the core concepts of holism, systems thinking, sustainability, and complexity. Systems thinking, in particular, is essential for a proper understanding of the complex interdependence of ecological systems, social systems, and other systems on all levels.
Because of its importance to continued health and well-being of human populations, ecoliteracy must become a critical competency for politicians, business leaders and professionals in all spheres in the 21st century, Lua argued. And it should be the most important part of education at all levels from primary and secondary schools to colleges, universities, and the continuing education and training of professionals.
“All education is, after all, ultimately environmental education,” Lua insisted. “Students are taught that they are part of, or apart from, the natural world depending on how they are taught, what they are taught, and in what context.”
Ecoliteracy also seeks to build meaningful connections between head, hands, and heart and to emphasize that the need to protect ecosystems is not simply a sentimental longing held by environmentalists, but a biological imperative for human survival. Ecosystem health is a basic principle for prioritizing thought and action in a sustainable society.
Considering the increasing capacity of human industrial systems to destroy habitats, destabilize climate systems, accelerate species extinction, pollute the environment, and unravel delicate ecosystems; the necessity of living within the ecological carrying capacity of the Earth is becoming increasingly clear.
“People need to get out more and pay attention—and getting out of the car and walking more is a really good start. We have been living far beyond our means by recklessly and irresponsibly drawing down ‘natural capital’ and not living modestly and sustainably off of just the ‘interest,’ ” Lua said. “The illusory gains are no different than a corporation selling off its assets in a fire sale and then boasting that the proceeds are all ‘profit.’ Some would characterize this scenario as an ecological Ponzi scheme of global proportions—one that surely won’t end well.”
Sadly, a powerful and pervasive car culture in developed countries insulates and isolates so many of us from the natural world—and we will not likely protect and defend that which we can no longer relate to or do not deeply love. This perverse car culture sends the wrong message, I thought to myself. Happiness and freedom are not found behind the wheel of car. Nor good health. For honesty’s sake, car advertisements really should show drivers who are overweight, impoverished, and stressed-out, since that is the ultimate outcome of lifestyles so overly dependent on the automobile and averse to walking and bicycling and to re-engaging with the natural world.
“We all need to walk more, Mister Rico, and reconnect with the natural world. Even if you don’t enjoy regular daily walks, it is good to remember that the best remedy for a short temper is a long walk,” Lua counseled.
“Not on a small boat!” I couldn’t resist.