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December 28, 2014
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Building a slow community


The second annual Slow Living Summit took place last month in Brattleboro, VT, attracting about 400 people, almost twice the number that attended the event last year. Speakers included Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org; Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel; and Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx.

An offshoot of the Slow Foods movement, which began in 1986 when Carlo Petrini led protests against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome, Italy, The Slow Living movement includes categories such as slow fashion, slow money, slow media and slow goods.

According to slowlivingsummit.org, Slow Living expresses “the transformative change from faster and cheaper to slower and better—where quality, community and the future matter. It’s about slowing down and becoming more mindful of our basic connection with land, place and people, taking the long view that builds a healthy, fulfilling way of life for the generations to come. It is about common good taking precedence over private gain.”

Advocates of slow living acknowledge that the environmental crises upon us necessitate that we live more consciously, make more sustainable choices that promote restoration of the natural world, and avoid waste and excess. One component of Slow Living is downshifting, withdrawing from the consumer culture that measures success by how much money one makes or the number and size of the objects one owns. Individuals who downshift create a more nurturing balance between work and leisure, so that they can fully savor each experience, whether it’s time spent with loved ones and friends, a home-cooked meal, a walk in nature, listening to music.

In and around our beloved river valley, we can see evidence of one component of the Slow Living movement, that of building connection with “land, place and people” and building “a healthy, fulfilling way of life for the generations to come.” So many of our neighbors have sacrificed their time, effort and sometimes their own money to manifest visions that benefit the entire community, not just themselves. I’m inspired by the formation of the Rural Heritage Party; by the growing number of organic farms, community gardens and CSAs; by the farmers markets in many of our town centers; by the opening of the Cooperage in Honesdale and the Hawley Silk Mill, venues promoting locally grown food, locally grown talent (and we’re blessed with a lot of both) and local businesses. The proposed esplanade on the Big Eddy in Narrowsburg is another example of an improvement that will allow us all—local residents and tourists—to celebrate the river whenever the spirit moves us.

The successful halting to date of drilling and fracking in the region is emblematic of the foundational beliefs of the Slow Living movement. Instead of ceding our community to industrial activity—or box stores, parking lots and chain hotels—many of our neighbors are conceiving of and bringing to fruition projects that help create a sustainable, thriving community for the benefit of all who live here, and for future generations.

I thank them for their efforts.