Easter Island, one of the most remote places on earth is well known today because of its large collection of 887 stone statues (Moai) carved by the Rapa Nui people who first arrived on the island over a thousand years ago.
The island also provides one of the most compelling examples of societal collapse caused by environment damage. Over the course of centuries trees were felled at an unsustainable rate until there were none left to provide the raw materials for canoes, warmth, food and shelter. Surrounded by a thousand miles of empty Pacific ocean with no hope of escape the net result was a rapid decline in population. How could this be? How did the inhabitants of Easter Island allow this environmental catastrophe to happen?
In his book Collapse, author Jared Diamond introduces the concept of creeping normality to explain the answer to this question.
Creeping normality refers to the way a major change can be accepted as normal if it happens slowly, in unnoticed increments - Wikipedia
The deforestation on Easter Island would have happened slowly over multiple generations with each younger generation exposed to fewer and fewer trees. Thus the baromoter of normal was constantly shifting downwards until it passed the point of no return. As Jared Diamond says no one would have noticed the felling of the last tree.
The same concept of creeping normality is applicable in our own lives, particularly in the field of fitness. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog we don’t get out of shape by eating one takeaway meal, drinking one bottle of wine or spending one day on the sofa. We get out of shape when these seemingly inconsequential behaviours accumulate together and snowball over time. Suddenly a year passes by and our slowly shifting barometer of normal has taken our physique and fitness levels a long way from where we want them to be.
On a positive note creeping normality works in reverse too. By making a single positive change, then another, then another, then another we can slowly but surely shift our barometer of normal to a daily routine packed full of healthy habits, rituals and routines.
And without really noticing we become fitter, stronger and healthier along the way!