Brattleboro Event Promotes 'Slow Living' Theme

06/02/11 5:50PM By Susan Keese
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(Host) Brattleboro's tenth annual Strolling of the Heifers takes place Saturday. The colorful parade of cows down Main Street is part of a larger celebration of local agriculture.

This year's kick-off event is a three-day "slow living summit," which advocates a shift in society's values.

VPR's Susan Keese was at the opening session.

(Keese) Backers of the slow living movement say it's all about taking the long view - whether it's taking time to cook local foods from scratch or basing decisions not on quick profits but on consequences for future generations.

John Cavanagh directs the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

(Cavanagh) "I think that 10 years from now, many of you will look back and say this was the beginning of a great, transformative movement that's changed our lives."

(Keese) Cavanagh describes a perfect storm of collapsing systems - the old Wall Street economy in the crash of 2008, a relatively stable environment, disrupted by global climate change.

Cavanagh says the industrial style of farming is also collapsing, along with its reliance on chemical fertilizers and long-distance shipping.

(Cavanagh) "We've had 150 years of food being transformed from something that's grown in a healthy way to an explosion of chemical agriculture that is killing our soils and our rivers and an explosion of obesity, diabetes and heart and other diseases."

(Keese) The slow food movement worries that too many people, especially the poor, have access to little more than fast food and processed food.

Josh Viertel of Slow Food USA says the country's food policies have led to a system where it's cheaper to feed kids Fruit Loops than it is to feed them fruit. Viertel says individuals in society need to help make a change.

(Viertel) "So that our movement is not just about being enlightened eaters. It's about being engaged community members and about being engaged citizens."

(Keese) Majora Carter worked on similar issues when she founded a group called Sustainable South Bronx. She says her groups have fought to transform trash-strewn lots into city parks, helped to launch sustainable local businesses and create green urban jobs.

(Carter) "And we were able to do these things because we really made the direct link with understanding that you don't have to move out of your neighborhood in order to live in a better one."

(Keese) Organizers hope the slow food summit leads to a sharing of ideas and strategies. They say the many small "green" projects represented here add up to something big: A new approach to economics based not on self-interest but on the common good.

For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese.

For more information visit the Strolling of the Heifers Website.

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