"The bigger they are, the harder they fall." .... "Slow and steady wins the race."
Systems should be designed to perform functions at the smallest scale that is practical and energy-efficient for that function.
Human scale and capacity should be the yardstick for a humane, democratic and sustainable society. Whenever we do anything of a self-reliant nature—growing food, fixing a broken appliance, maintaining our health—we are making very powerful and effective use of this principle. Whenever we purchase from small, local businesses or contribute to local community and environmental issues, we are also applying this principle.
The speed of movement of materials and people (and other living things) between systems should be minimised. A reduction in speed reduces total movement, increasing the energy available for the system's self-reliance and autonomy.
Speed, especially of personal movement, generates high levels of stimulation that drown out the subtle and the quiet. For example, when we drive somewhere new, we are stimulated by what we see in the landscape. When we travel the same route regularly, we may notice small changes but generally, we lose interest and become bored. However, if we ride a bicycle or walk over the same route, our eyes, ears, skin, and noses are opened to a new world of subtle stimulation that the enclosure and speed of the car had kept from us.
The spiral house of the snail is small enough to be carried on its back and yet capable of incremental growth. With its lubricated foot, the snail easily and deliberately traverses any terrain. Although it is the bane of gardeners, the snail is an appropriate icon for small-scale and slow speed.
The proverb "the bigger they are, the harder they fall" is a reminder of one of the disadvantages of size and excessive growth. The proverb "slow and steady wins the race" is one of many that encourages patience while reflecting a common truth in nature and society.