We are always being reminded of just how hectic our lives are and just how little time we have each day to get things done. The pressure to meet deadlines is constant as we are encouraged to fit as much into our time as possible, starved of the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the moment, no matter what we are doing.
There is, however, a growing awareness that this does not have to be the case and that perhaps we have got our priorities wrong. Instead of accepting this constant rush we can slow down and enjoy life for what it is, or at least what it should be. This growing awareness has become known as The Slow Movement.
Origins of the Slow Movement
During the 1980s, fast food chain McDonalds applied to open a franchise near the Piazza di Spagna in Rome. A demonstration headed by Italian food writer and activist Carlo Petrini successfully fought to prevent the restaurant opening, and from this the first Slow Movement, known as Slow Food began. Inspired by the success of Slow Food, similar campaigns began to emerge to petition for slowness in many aspects of contemporary life, including Slow Money, Slow Cities, Slow Parenting and Slow Travel.
What Is the Slow Movement?
The Slow Movement is neither one political party nor one centrally controlled organisation but a philosophy that is shared by a number of movements, each choosing to focus on different aspects of daily living. At their core each movement shares the ideal of slowing down the present pace of life so that we can all begin to enjoy life more and connect to those elements we are at risk of losing touch with, such as quality of life, family, food, people and culture. There is an underlying belief within the Slow Movement of the need for us to re-prioritise and put less value on social status and career success. To instead attune yourself to the natural rhythms of life.
With each movement developing separately and concentrating on its own area of interest, a number of aspects of contemporary life have come under scrutiny to see how they can be slowed down. The most successful of these movements are outlined here.
After the successful McDonalds campaign in Rome, Carlo Petrini set up the Slow Food movement in 1986, which essentially built upon the objectives of the original campaign. The Slow Food movement is a campaigning body that opposes the perceived need for fast food, non-sustainable food production and the eroding of local economies.
To replace fast food the movement encourages the enjoyment of traditional foods, regional produce and agricultural biodiversity. An important element of the Slow Food movement is the support of traditional ways of life by learning to embrace the pleasures of preparing food and sharing it with friends and family. As the Slow Food movement developed it has also been able to fund initiatives designed to protect agricultural biodiversity and local food traditions on a global scale in ways that help to preserve the Earth's resources.
By the 1990s Slow Food had begun to apply influence to the European Union to encourage the preservation of endangered food types and to take into consideration the needs of organic farmers. During the mid-1990s the movement had extended to 42 countries with 65,000 members globally.
Slow Cities, or Citta Slow as it is better known, is not so much a movement as an organisation that controls which places can call themselves slow cities. The organisation began in Italy in October 1999, inspired by the success of the Slow Food movement and had the aim of improving the quality of life in cities. Citta Slow also supports cultural diversity and the specialities of each town as a reaction against the homogenised, fast-paced nature of many modern cities.
Cities that wish to be officially recognised as slow must adhere to a manifesto with over 50 guiding principles, drawn up by Citta Slow. One of the main principles is that a town must not have a population larger than 50,000. There are six categories which these guiding principles fall into, and which each town applying for slow status must follow. Each city must embrace:
- Environmental awareness
- A resistance to the homogenisation of cities
- Promotion of quality of life within cities
- An awareness of and promotion of local produce
- Hospitality within its city and a sense of community
- An awareness of slow principles
Citta Slow has now expanded beyond Italy and has networks in a number of countries including Germany, Norway and Britain. There are many officially recognised Slow Cities around the world, with, at the time of writing, nine in the UK alone.
The Slow Money movement was founded by Woody Tasch in November 2008 after he had written a book called Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money - Investing As If Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered. The fundamental aim of the movement is to support investment in small food industries including organic food and local food markets, with the intention of creating a connection between finance and 'place'.
Initially, Slow Money was a collection of local groups holding meetings and press conferences, but began to emerge on a stronger foothold after a national conference in September 2009. This was held at the farmers' market in Sante Fe, New Mexico, USA, and was attended by farmers and investors from 34 states and six countries. The objectives of the meeting were to get one million people to sign up to Slow Money and support its principles of cultural, ecological and economic diversity through investment projects.
The ideals of Slow Travel involve enjoying the process of travel rather than the anticipation of arrival, and becoming part of local cultures along the way. Typically slow travel enthusiasts prefer ecologically low impact destinations which allow them to stay in one place for longer instead of simply sampling tourist highlights before moving on. This form of travel allows people to become part of, and develop a deeper appreciation of local culture.
Slow travellers will usually stay in holiday rentals such as apartments or villas rather than hotels, which means they will use the same amenities as local inhabitants, thereby buying local produce and cooking local dishes for themselves. This kind of holiday encourages slow travellers to mix in a more natural way with people in the community and to explore the region and its culture at a slower more thorough pace.
Some slow travellers also choose to take up voluntary work so they can work and live at a local level while forming bonds with local people and becoming part of their way of life.
Slow Parenting is a response to the busy schedules of children who attend a number of after school activities, and whose free time is taken up with homework and other activities organised by overzealous parents. Slow Parenting advocates less time spent watching television and playing electronic games, and instead encourages children to spend more free time in their own creative play.
This free play is considered important for children among proponents of Slow Parenting because they believe it allows children's own creativity to emerge. This in turn encourages children to work through conflicts in a consequence free environment and to explore the world around them at their own pace. This kind of learning and play is considered important for later life by helping to develop problem solving and coping skills essential for the adult world.
Advocates of Slow Parenting argue that by giving children an over full schedule with reduced time for free play can lead to stress, underdeveloped imaginations and limited attention spans. It is suggested that in later life this can lead to an inability to cope with the unpredictabilities of the adult world and a tendency to complain about its unfairness.
Not everyone is convinced by the arguments of the Slow Parenting purists, but in more moderate forms it has its followers.
As well as the growing trend of slow movements, there is also a growing consensus that each individual can choose to move away from the hectic pace of modern living and take steps to slow down. In a fast-paced world it is easy to succumb to the belief that you have to live at a fast pace and strive for material goals. From within a conventional framework it could be argued that to not follow this path places us outside the norm and encourages us to judge ourselves as not having a proper place in society. However, many argue there are other options.
Changing from a hectic lifestyle to the slow alternative is not always easy because it involves taking a good look at our lifestyle and seeing what can be cut out of each day. By looking at these small things first the bigger decisions can become easier to make. Those who advocate Slow Living suggest a number of initial steps such as eliminating something from the daily routine, reducing multi-tasking and creating a place to just escape.
As the impetus to adopt a Slow Living philosophy grows, learning basic meditation exercises can become part of the slow living pattern, so that the mind becomes clear and moments can be taken from the day to strip away the top layer of stress. Eventually a state of mindfulness is reached which allows adherents of Slow Living to become more 'mindful' of each moment and to experience it for what it is.
The Slow Movement is a way of living that is an antidote to the frenetic pace almost everyone has come to accept. Many people are however beginning to see that there are other ways of doing things and that by slowing down many aspects of our daily lives, life can offer a richer, more enjoyable and a more aesthetically satisfying experience.