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The Growing Movement Putting Sustainability and Community Back in the Forefront

Slow Cities "are strong communities that have made the choice to improve the quality of life for their inhabitants.

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

In the midst of climate change, "big box" stores, frequent lack of community connections, and ubiquitous fast and processed food, a flourishing movement stands in stark contrast.

The symbol of the Slow Cities movement. Reporting by Agence France-Presse puts a spotlight on this global movement—the Slow City movement, or "Cittaslow"—which hopes to provide an "antidote against negative globalization."

"Cittaslow is about appreciating what we are and what we have, without being self-destructive and depleting values, money and resources," Pier Giorgio Oliveti, director of Cittaslow, told AFP.

Cittaslow, headquartered in Orvieto, Italy, got its start 15 years ago in a small Tuscan town "to enlarge the philosophy of Slow Food to local communities," and now boasts roughly 160 towns spanning 28 countries.

Cittaslow's website explains that Slow Cities "are strong communities that have made the choice to improve the quality of life for their inhabitants." Specifically, the characteristics of these Slow Cities are that they

  • Contain fewer than 50,000 people.
  • Commit deeply to preserve and sustain the environment.
  • Encourage thoughtful development and use of new technologies for sustainability.
  • Foster local culture and preserve heritage traditions.
  • Promote healthy eating and lifestyle.Cittàslow Sonoma's "Pollinator Pals" project kick-off. (Photo: akgreenbird/cc/flickr)
  • Support local artisans and businesses.
  • Welcome visitors.
  • Encourage active participation in community life.

In the face of austerity's tightening grip, Oliveti told AFP that the philosophy of Cittaslow can offer part of the solution by "privileging a community's qualities, such as craftmanship, technology or tourism, and using them as a key to overcome the economic crisis."

Among the list of Slow Cities are three in the U.S., all in California: Sonoma, Fairfax and Sebastopol.

Sonoma Valley, the first of the three to join the movement, says its "mission is to be a catalyst for sustainable well-being for all."

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