Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Slow food movement explores options, impacts

Online Resources
- http://www.slowfood.com/
- http://www.slowfoodusa.org/
- http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/terramadredetail/terramadre2008conference
- http://www.terramadre2006.org/

Slow food movement explores options, impacts
By Christian Wise

What is "slow food," a group or a movement?

The slow food movement is more than just an organization called Slow Food. It is more than just the preservation of traditional methods of food production.

The slow food movement is about creating a global environment maximizing diversity and inclusion while focusing on the creation, production, distribution and presentment of food and complementary goods such as textiles.

More specifically, people espousing slow food principles are people speaking against the homogenization of food production and the perceived "forcing" of that homogenization on the public. The phrase "slow food" is actually an antithesis for "fast food." The movement categorizes fast-food venues as forcing a standardized method of production and reducing eating to a quick, fast and relatively meaningless, disengaged act.

Taking this line of reasoning one step further, knowing that homogenization can occur on a variety of levels, we could ask the question, "What do you want your neighborhood to look like?"
Do you want your neighborhood filled with markets and gardens, or fast-food joints? The landscape of your neighborhood should reflect the value you have toward your environment and your space.

"What do you want your neighborhood to look like?" is a question with both practical and philosophical implications. Modification of the practical or the actual happens when the placement of value is changed or re-examined. The practical side is what the neighborhood actually looks like, and the philosophical side is the method for getting there.

We as a society have evolved and placed values of time and convenience over quality and selection of food. How we determine our value structure and where to apply it is a philosophical act. Do we want to change our values? Changing our values may change our neighborhood.
Philosophy transcends into reality when practiced. In other words, an ideal neighborhood has a greater propensity to exist if it is visualized, the visualization is communicated to others, mutual agreement to work on the same goals materializes and a movement is created.

Answering the question, "What do you want your neighborhood to look like?" is the first step because it is the act of visualization.

Do you want variety, do you want choice, do you want safe food, do you want necessary goods more readily available, do you want less crime, do you want better health care, do you want less poverty, and do you want alienation or personal contact with others? These are all questions one may consider when asking the question, "What do you want your neighborhood to look like?"
The idea of inclusion and diversity of free trade necessitates the elimination of alienation and objectification. Being able to personally relate to both the people and the sources of goods removes alienation and objectification and personifies the commercial process.

Homogenization is exclusion. The celebration of differences in food, clothing and processes related to both is the act of inclusion and the embracement of diversity.

De-emphasizing homogenization tendencies like fast food, prepackaged, nonlocal food stuffs, large retail establishments and centralization of commerce are ways to promote diversity.
To promote diversity is to discourage alienation. Minimizing alienation reduces crime.

To rephrase these statements further, would you rather know where your hamburger comes from and how it was raised, or are you content with your hamburger arriving wrapped in wax paper with no knowledge of its origin? Would you rather talk personally with an expert in his or her field, or someone who has gone through a brief training program on how to sell a particular item?

Do you want to lower the carbon footprint that the attainment of your food causes? Do you want to eat better foods? Would you rather emphasize community and sustainability and stimulate the local economy, or continue the trend of fast food, waste and sending money away to far-off places?

Programs that emphasize community gardens, food education and local businesses bolster the local economy, keep money within the locality, develop knowledge about food and health, and begin to shape one's local and world view.

The prosperity of the community that supports its own is greater than one that doesn't. A dollar spent locally returns sevenfold - that efficiency would make most Wall Street investors proud.
Wise wrote this article in light of his experiences at Terra Madre, an event of Slow Food International.

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