Jo Pretty

Jo Pretty's #MyBiosphere

The Isle of Man is the only entire country to boast UNESCO Biosphere status, reflecting it is a special place for people and nature. In our regular feature, authors from different walks of Manx life offer a personal perspective on #MyBiosphere. This month, Jo Pretty writes:

My first thought, given to writing about the Biosphere and the uniqueness of the Isle of Man, was to cover the beauty that abounds us.

When the sun is shining high, penetrating deep into the crystal waters of the Manx sea and lighting up the vibrant, lush green hills of this beautiful Island from every point I stand, it is uplifting.

Then I think about something less tangible as I try to put into words my feelings about living on this Island.

It is August, late afternoon, and I am painting my garden railings. Children are playing out in the street in front of my house. A little girl clops past wearing the shoes of an adult and carrying a bag. She is heading for the corner shop. Minutes later she returns, pleased with her endeavours.

She feels safe, she has a sense of accomplishment, she is happy.

I can remember this – a memory from a life less hectic.

A few days later, it is 5.15pm and my car is vibrating over the ramp as I leave the ferry and head off to East Anglia. I look forward to catching up with family. I travel south down the M6 and am soon reduced to a crawl amid the volume of cars and lorries, journeying on past the cones and ‘free recovery’ signs.

I make it to the A14 to be stopped suddenly by its closure. Diverted onto the A11, I travel little more than three miles before a breakdown sends me onto another diversion. Finally, six hours later, I arrive at my destination.

I don’t miss this – the busyness of people, all trying hurriedly to go somewhere.

In our global society, we are living in a transformative age resulting in fundamental shifts in how we live, work and play. The pace is fast and technology is the great disruptor, making our environments radically different and, during this, we ask for more.

We ask more of our young people. They are expected to develop tough skills such as complex problem-solving, logic, critical thinking, be analytical, use technology 24/7, learn quickly, be flexible, be adaptive and be resilient…oh, and still be grounded in the reality of being able to write a formal letter and hold conversation.

Like life, learning is a continuous activity. From formal, knowledge-based learning; skills-based learning; personal growth and learning to live together in our society.

Life on the Isle of Man is about all of these and, importantly, we have a balance: of experiencing, playing, creating – and doing so at the right pace.

And what of the future? The future is not just somewhere we go. We create it.

As individuals, we play an active part in determining the direction of our society, through our actions and choices. We continue to ensure that everybody feels safe, has a sense of accomplishment and is happy.

In the Isle of Man, we are fortunate to have what has been lost for many communities: a unique mix of the past, present and future. This is our biosphere.

Jo Pretty is Principal of University College Isle of Man, a member of the Isle of Man Arts Council and a board member of the Business Isle of Man executive agency.

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