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This is the first of a four-part series adapted from the book Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout (Chelsea Green, 2012).
The “slow food” movement began in the mid-1980s with protests against the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome, but it has since inspired untold thousands of supporters across the globe.
Slow food argues that fast food symbolizes much of what’s wrong with the world today. We’ve taken the goal of “efficiency” too far, advocates argue. We need to slow down and understand where our food comes from, and recognize our connection to agriculture, to communities, and to our natural systems. We have a responsibility to do so, for human, economic, and ecological health.
I was thinking about slow food while thinning carrots in my garden one weekend, listening to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma on my ear buds. That’s when it hit me: the work I had been doing in community development was perfectly aligned with the efforts of the slow food movement. Local, human-scale, interconnected…the metaphor was inspiring, and it brought a wave of fresh, exciting ideas to mind. Slow Democracy!
I ran inside to test the idea out on my husband Mark. He seemed impressed, saying enthusiastically, “Slow Democracy? Great idea! Hey, I bet you could even get the domain name—SlowDemocracy.org!”More
The death of Maurice Sendak this week has gotten me thinking about why his books have made such an impact, and why as a nation we are registering his passing as a significant cultural loss.
I think, in large part, it’s because his books are not about a world in which there is obvious good or obvious evil, where the bad guys get outwitted and it all turns out okay in the end. His heroes are often misbehaving misfits of one sort or another who do what they can to escape the confines of their particular reality.
In short, he writes from a place of difference or disadvantage. We are invited to sympathize, and even root for, those least acceptable to society. For children, who are so often misunderstood, there is something very gratifying about this.More
My father recently died after a long and full life. Over the course of the last few weeks, I was regaled with many a story of his contributions to his community. And as these stories piled in, I learned of others’ tireless efforts alongside his.
As I heard of the selfless contributions by these varied and numerous individuals, I couldn’t help but think of the communities the Orton Family Foundation has had the privilege to work with over the years. Time and again, I’ve been amazed by people’s unwavering commitment to assist the larger community in addressing issues of need and improving the collective quality of life.
Since 2005, Tammie Delaney has worked in Hayden, Colorado to help her town articulate a vision based on local values. Her (and others’) efforts resulted in a comprehensive plan and zoning regulations that embody thoughtful growth from the core out - successfully maintained despite a proposal to demolish a corner of Hayden’s historic district for new development - and an economic development plan encouraging growth consistent with the community’s values.More
While I would love to see the economy bounce back to what it was, I believe any further thinking along these lines is tantamount to the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.
I don’t mean to suggest we should just give up; what I do mean is that if we expect things to return to the “old normal,” we’ll miss key opportunities to proactively prepare for the “new normal.”
With our life, culture and society transforming in fundamental ways, it behooves us to embrace this paradigm shift and challenge our old assumptions.More
I work with people more than natural resources in our land use planning work here at the Foundation, so I sometimes miss the “purer” discussions around preservation or enhancement of a balanced, sustainable natural environment. That’s why I always eagerly await the next issue of Orion Magazine.
While the field of conservation has moved significantly towards the inclusion of humans in the discussion of and decisions about natural resources, the ethereal yet powerful spiritual elements of nature still find a constant thread in the articles, poetry and photography found throughout Orion.
Orion’s July/August was a different delight for me, however, as it looked at issues closer to home. It examines the interplay of climate change and peak oil and the responsibility of communities to plan accordingly and in a principled way.
The editors exhort the reader by asking, “When we take to the streets of our communities...shouldn’t we feel a sense of home that encompasses the past, the present and especially the future—a sense that our places are being made and remade to reflect the best of who we are and who we aim to become?” I’ve recently read two competing visions of how to answer these questions.More
In his book The Experience of Place, the gifted writer Tony Hiss, offered us a new way to look at and appreciate place. In his latest offering, In Motion: The Experience of Travel, he does the same for travel.
Hiss, a Trustee Emeritus of the Foundation, is a truly lyrical writer with an incredible ability to draw information and inspiration from a highly diverse and extensive array of sources, and combine facts and philosophies to advance new insights.
In his new book, Hiss tells us how to reawaken our ability to experience travel and take it from something that, over time, has become familiar and even onerous and return it to an experience of higher awareness and true enjoyment. Developing the concept of Deep Travel, Hiss introduces us to this special type of consciousness. Deep Travel is a “bringer of novelty and the unexpected, a dissolver of boredom, even during an otherwise routine activity, like a trip to the supermarket.”More
Jared Duval’s book Next Generation Democracy has just been released by Bloomsbury. Jared is on my Board, so I’ll admit my bias. But there’s no doubt his book is an important contribution to the evolving discussions on where democracy needs to go in our communities and our country.
Part educational and part advocacy, Jared’s engaging book offers a refreshing perspective on how the philosophy and field of open source software has shaped the “millenial generation” and its expectations of governments (and institutions). Being of the millennial generation himself, Jared is able to draw from his own experience and that of his contemporaries, as well as “baby boomers’” work and perspectives on the pressing topic of how to improve a system of government that clearly isn’t working.More
When I woke at 4:57am today in rural Vermont, I realized I had been woken by birdsong. The air was so packed with it you couldn't distinguish one call from the next. There was no starting and stopping; it was full on, full-throated and loud, startlingly so. My two-year-old woke up asking for milk and a spot in my bed. Neither of us fell back asleep.
Lying there in the half-light, I remembered waking up in New York City when I lived there a decade ago and what that sounded like: traffic, traffic, store front shields scraping up for the day, sirens, more traffic—a tinny, grinding, cacophonous din, which sometimes, for reasons I never figured out, became a hum that could sound like surf if you forgot where you were (which was never easy). Heavy snowfall was the only thing capable of muffling the City into, not silence, but a constrained quietude. And for a few hours—if we were lucky…the spell could be broken in minutes—all of Manhattan became a blanketed leviathan, a feverish heart in the chest of a submerging whale, an entombed anthill writ large. That’s when we’d get out our skis and slice right down the center of 2nd Avenue or up Broadway to the sparkling stretches of Central Park bordered on all sides by the city, uprising enormously in all its geometric force and certainty. But it was soft in the middle, and we sluiced along.More