Tuesday June 4, 2013

For the past three years the Slow Living Summit has been an important ancillary event to the Strolling of the Heifers, which is now one of Vermont’s leading tourist attractions and increasingly gaining attention nationwide. The Strolling of the Heifers focuses attention on farmers and local food, and right from day one Strolling organizer Orly Munzing worked to provide an educational component to the event. So it was a logical extension to host a focused conference that tied in to the Strolling.

But the Slow Living Summit, whose program committee I’ve participated in these three years, goes beyond food and agriculture.

Celebrating the idea
of slowing down

The Slow Living Summit was inspired by the Slow Food movement in Europe -- an effort to counter "fast food," which is continuing to grow in dominance (approximately 19 percent of our meals are consumed in cars, according to Michael Pollan) -- and the Slow Money movement, which is focused on local economies, local investing, and slowing down the pace and scale of the world of banking and finance. "Slow living" seeks to tie these together.

From the Slow Living Summit website:

"’Slow’ encompasses several layers of meaning that go beyond simply ‘sustainable.


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’ Slow is the opposite of ‘fast’ -- fast food, fast money, fast living -- and all of the negative consequences ‘fast’ has had for the environment and for the health of people and societies. ‘Slow’ embodies cooperation, respect, sustainability, gratitude and resilience."

Conference this
Wednesday through Friday

The Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro begins Wednesday evening with registration, exhibits and networking in the Latchis lobby, a reception at 5 p.m. at the Latchis main theater, and the opening plenary beginning there at 6:30 p.m. Speakers in the opening plenary will be Jonathan Lash, the president of Hampshire College and past president of the World Resources Institute, and Robert Repetto, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute. There will also be remembrances of two local advocates of slow living, who passed away within the past year: Helen Daly and Keith Maillard.

Other plenary sessions during the conference include:

Thursday morning from 8:30 to 10 -- "Agriculture, Food, and Food Systems: Reconnecting Farmers, Eaters, and Healthy Communities" with Frances Moore Lappé, author of "Diet for a Small Planet," and Judy Wicks, author of "Good Morning, Beautiful Business: The Unexpected Journey of an Activist Entrepreneur and Local-Economy Pioneer." Wicks is also founder of the White Dog Café, Philadelphia, and a co-founder of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).

Thursday afternoon from 1:45 to 3:15 -- "Slow Design: The impact of mindful design on the quality of public spaces and their communities" with Jonathan Fogelson of the Michael Singer Studio; Roseanne Haggerty, president of Community Solutions in New York City; and Rasmia Kirmany-Fry, director of the Brownsville Partnership, Community Solutions in New York City.

Friday morning from 8:30 to 10 -- "Transitioning to a New Economy," with presenters Gus Speth of the Vermont Law School and previously the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; Tina Clark, a Massachusetts Transition Town trainer; and Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies.

All of the plenary sessions are open to the public with a suggested $10 donation.

The Slow Living Summit also includes four periods, each with a selection of seven to nine breakout sessions to choose from. These in-depth and highly interactive sessions are being held in the Marlboro Graduate Center, smaller Latchis theaters, and the Brattleboro Food Co-op Community Room. To participate in these sessions requires a full or one-day conference registration.

The breakout sessions include everything from new models of farm cooperatives with Roger Allbee, a past Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, to a session on the "Story of Place" with Kate Stephenson of Yestermorrow, and Bill Reed of the Regenesis Group; an update on nutrient cycling through urine-separation technology, which is being pioneered locally (including field trials); and "resilient design" that Bob Stevens and I are presenting that will highlight several local projects.

With so many fascinating events going on far from Brattleboro, it’s great to have such an amazing conference right here in our town. With the Slow Living Summit, Brattleboro is at the leading edge of the transition to a more sustainable, resilient future. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity, even if you can only get to one of the plenary sessions.

Alex Wilson is the founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. and the Resilient Design Institute (www.resilientdesign.org), both based in Brattleboro. Send comments or suggestions for future columns to alex@buildinggreen.com.