Paused, for thought
There hadn't been a decision to make a prolonged stop, it's just worked out that I haven't got far this week. On Sunday I reached Etel estuary just before the Quiberon peninsular, and linked up with an old Swansea University friend Charlie Drakeford. Storm Ophelia blew through before I headed back out through the swells to get round to the protected side of Quiberon, and then into the Gulf of Morbihan, where I linked up with Charlie again. Calm conditions, storms forecast for the weekend, and an open house offer to stay until conditions improve now account for the stationary tracker. It's worked out great though - I can catch up on some website work that hasn't been getting done, and be slightly useful from time to time picking up Charlie and Annou's youngest from school. But just to be clear - this is a pause not a stop! - I'll be on my way again after the weekend storm blows through.
A pause gives a time to think - take stock of progress. My goal for winter had been South Brittany. I reason that from here onwards winter conditions will be mild enough to sail through. The problem will be the Atlantic swells - a patient and cautious approach will be called for when the ocean is churning.
The assumption of others is that I have a lot of time to think whilst sailing. Do I? It doesn't seem that way. But I guess I do see a lot. Different coastlines, and different lives - many. Aspects that distinguish them, and the similarities. And often I am in a current. Sometime struggling to make progress; on other occasions - timing willing - travelling much faster than I realise, but barely aware of such pace until a point of reference provides perspective.
Which could be a metaphor for a busy family. Or - more soberingly - for humanity.
Consider this article on a recently published study. It reports on a 75% decline in insect abundance over the last 27 years. (Or substitute in projections on the life expectancy of the Great Barrier Reef, for example.) The industrial use of pesticides seems a likely factor. (Coral bleaching due to warming seas in case of GBR.) The shocking aspect is not the decline, but the rate of decline. We are fundamentally altering our shared ecosystem-that-is-planet-earth in ways we do not understand, and doing so at such pace that our brains are poorly evolved to comprehend. Perspective on this is difficult. We are more likely to focus attentions on regrettable facts of life such as the terrorist threat, than on the fundamental, actual and accelerating threats - environmental, ecological, climatic - to the balance of life on earth. To the sustainability of life as we depend upon it.
The damage is being done. But humanity does still have options and we can proceed in more damaging or less damaging ways. Intervention and global initiatives plugged the hole in the ozone layer. Reductions in CO2 emissions will reduce the rate of global warming. But much bigger and far more radical thinking is needed too. And - particularly - acknowledgement of the actual, dizzyingly fast rate of change.
Why am I doing this trip? That's a question I am frequently asked. Because I have the opportunity, I say. Which is true, or at least that is why I started. But why will I finish? I don't need to finish. I could decide to go and do something else. Buy a pair of slippers. But no, I will finish. For a number of reasons. I am enjoying it, it is a privilege, and also because of a concern/sadness for the planet we live on and that others - my niece, nephew, the children of the contacts I have met - will inherit. By finishing I hope to raise some funds for an organisation that can do more than I can to protect our planet's - and by extension its peoples' - interests. Trivial though it may be, I can at least do something positive to improve the chances for this delicate, beautiful bubble we call Earth. Which I guess makes me feel a little more hopeful that humanity can too.