In a constantly changing world, new and exhausting demands are placed on individuals to maintain what is perceived to be the “necessary lifestyle”, the one that is mostly driven by a constant barrage of marketing collateral that is a key motivator for our consumer society. In navigating our way through the challenges of maintaining these hopes, it is easy to lose sight of how out of balance our lives have become.

Perhaps this all started with the Industrial Revolution back in the late 18th to early 19th century. This was a turning point in history, average incomes increased, population growth reached unprecedented levels and the standard of living for the general population in the western world was raised consistently for the first time in history. Economic historians agree that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants ¹.

The downside of this newfound living standard was the impact that it had on our environment, through urbanisation, carbon emissions, consumption of fossil fuels, and industrial chemical discharge that added to the growing load of untreated human waste. Another consequence was the transformation of our species from being mostly self-employed, and thus self-reliant, to being dependant on salaries to maintain aspirational lifestyles.

Then came the twentieth century, which saw exponential growth. The global population grew from 1,6 billion in 1900 to 6,2 billion in 2000.

The Great Migration of Wildebeest in the the Serengeti, Tanzania. Credit Marius Swart. 

Fast forward to December 2019 (population now 7,8 billion) and the first reports of the COVID-19 virus. Who would have forecast what an impact this would have on the world? Everyday lives have been disrupted, the risk of increasing unemployment is real, travel has been severely restricted, all impacting on the livelihood of millions, causing physical, mental and economic stress.

This global disruption has shaken all of us up and many are questioning why we did what we did before the pandemic came. Long, expensive, commutes to the office. Working long hours in a thankless environment without the chance to experience the beauty that exists around us. The changes that were forced upon us have made us wonder if the pre-COVID life was sustainable. Extended time at home gave us the opportunity to spend valuable time with family. Slowing down allowed us to appreciate what we had and re-assess what we need

For some working from home has been a negative as there is not always an off button, but this is where balance comes into play.

Let’s take some lessons from nature. An ecosystem, or natural unit (e.g., wetlands, lakes, forests) consists of living and non-living parts, all of which interact to form stability. The living parts include plants, animals while the non-living parts would be made up of soil chemistry, temperature, nutrient supply and so on. For healthy sustainability, ecosystems need to be finely tuned and well balanced. So, life on Earth is a complex network of interaction between living organisms and their respective environments.

A thriving ecosystem, the Okavango Delta is a treasure trove of balance, stability and, importantly, life.  Credit Marius Swart. 

There are alternatives to the way that we conduct our lives. There are ways to reduce the self-induced stress that many people operate under day in and day out.

How does this apply to Clearly Africa? We have been fortunate that we have chosen a life that allows us to appreciate that which is around us. We are constantly exploring areas that fall outside of the well-traveled paths, sharing experience and appreciation that we have accumulated over years of venturing into some of the finest wilderness areas on the planet.

Hopefully, a consequence of the COVID lockdowns and the time that it offered for us to reflect on our circumstances, created a greater awareness of the fact that we need to do more to protect our planet and ourselves. That if we continue as we are without adjusting our behaviour, the consequences could be disastrous. It is our hope, that by sharing our experience with you, that you will be able to understand the intricacy of the web that links our planet. That it will highlight that for every action, no matter how small, there is a consequence, either good or bad. It will prioritise the need for balance in everything that we do.

In the words of Dave Mathews the musician, “Everything I want is what I have not got, everything that I need is all around me!”