It was great to read in the Sydney Morning Herald and Jo Lane’s blog here a while ago, that New Zealand has been named the “world’s safest country” in this year’s Global Peace Index – for the second year running (and it’s even better to hear about it from two Australians ;-).
So what’s it like to live in the world’s most peaceful country? Don’t be fooled, it’s not the land of milk and honey. Kiwis work too hard, eat too much junk food, and get inexplicably obsessed with the latest iTrinkets – just like everyone else. So why is it that we get the uber-peacenik tag?
According to the economists at Vision of Humanity, who put the list together, there are a host of reasons; we’re politically stable, we don’t participate in foreign conflicts, we have a low perceived criminality, we don’t have many violent demonstrations etcetera. Basically as far as the statistics are concerned we’re a pretty chilled out bunch.
But why… what’s behind the numbers? Well, one of the first things you spot when you arrive in New Zealand is the locals’ connection with the landscape. I don’t mean that in any sort of new-age sense, agriculture and tourism employ a large slice of the nation’s workforce (including myself) and that means day-to-day people are out walking around in a more-or-less natural setting. And it seems to me that simple fact keeps everyone’s feet on the ground.
As a hiking guide, the anecdotal evidence for this is pretty easy to spot. Take any bunch of type-A doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs from any country into the mountains for more than a day or so and you can just about see the tension unwinding. I wouldn’t dare hazard a guess at the psychology behind it, but it just seems that the more time you spend outside the more chilled out you are.
So, if you want to make a contribution towards world peace today… take a hike.