Skip to content

Be like a Turtle

By Hélène Lesterlin

I was asking myself: Is this the first summer we have had to contend with air quality hazards from Canadian wildfire smoke AND catastrophic flooding in our local counties and neighbor states? Then I heard that the ocean temperatures reached 98 degrees off the coast of the Florida Keys. And I still don’t quite understand how the global impacts of another cycle of El Niño will interact with higher average temperatures due to climate change, but it seems climate scientists are also not in consensus on that one.

I used to love thunderstorms. Now they seem to have crossed a line.

We have had so much practice carrying on in the face of constant uncertainty and risk assessment due to years of pandemic life. Monitoring the weather, listening for signs that it might be dangerous, this is relatively uncharted space for our geographic region. I like to complain when there isn’t enough snow in the Catskills mountains that I didn’t sign up for five months of mud season. The mosquitoes this week are bold and large and hungry. I now check Breezometer directly to see how the air quality is and where the fires are burning. It takes something to remain calm.

Aesop’s tale of the Tortoise and the Hare helps orient me. Having discovered a painted turtle on the moss, I pondered its path. Change is actually slow and inexorable. Change is inevitable, and it is neutral. It is just a phenomenon. The planet itself does not mind warming up. It is all the interconnected living ecosystems that spent millenia developing under certain stable conditions that will suffer collapse. Meanwhile, we are racing about, distracted, driven by ego or panic or short-term issues. Where will we get the guidance and the deeply rooted change that we need to stop this mad dash towards an unlivable environment? When will we wake up? Slow and steady wins the race, as we like to say. Indeed, I’m sensing that small, patient, humble approaches might be the very ones that will bring about stabilizing equilibriums. Be like the tortoise.

What does that look like day-to-day? Taking time to grieve; allowing for rest; working with intensity and passion and commitment; caring for others and avoiding harm; speaking up for people and living things who do not have a voice; building awareness and knowing that there is always more that we don’t know; proceeding with humility; learning from mistakes; celebrating and sharing joy; being kind to ourselves and each other; noticing beauty… the list goes on. It is a list of quiet footfalls that happen out of sight. When we allow ourselves those things, we may have the courage to face the system-wide, Earth-scale issues that scare us, and not rush away. Like the hummingbird that keeps dropping a tiny beakful of water on the raging, burning forest, we might just do what we can, beating our wings faster than the eye can see.

Articles and personal reflections from the GWI team as they navigate their lives and their shared work.

Support GWI

These times call for collective action. Your gift is the solid ground that allows us to support and cultivate Good Work: that is, people and initiatives that are rejecting systems of oppression and extraction, and building regenerative economies and thriving communities.