Cittaslows Picking up the Pace

imgp1306customaired: 4/5/09

Dr. Wolfgang Hoeschele of the geography department at Truman visited the show this week to talk to us about “Cittaslows” or “Slow Cities” which have infiltrated several countries in Europe and have even popped up in Australia and South Korea. The concept originated in Italy with the Slow Food movement in 1999. Slow Food functions as an organization (Missouri has multiple chapters!) to aid in the progress of making communities more aware of how to support food that is socially responsible (concern for the workers involved, how the production and processing affect communities), economically feasible, and environmentally sound (emphasis on local organic foods). It also encourages, as the name suggests, a slowing down and enjoyment of our food culture. Especially in the US, where we often rush through solitary meals, nourishing a culture that cherishes food as the medicine it is and for the history it tells, is a critical part of the movement.

The Cittaslow name is different from Slow Food in that it acts as a sort of reward title for cities who have implemented a number of culture-preserving, sustainability-promoting projects.  All must have populations under 50,000.  Some set up infrastructure for public transportation (in European cities that were not made for large vehicles, getting cars out of the streets has become important to maintain walkability).  Others establish farmers markets, promote regional “gourmet” food items, and renovate historical buildings with locally sourced materials.  One concern Dr. Hoeschele had about Cittaslows is that too often they are eager to adopt the title for the title’s sake, and many cities do very little to further the culture and sustainability goals after they’ve accomplished enough to call themselves a Cittaslow.  The nature of the “Cittaslow” title is such that there being very few of them makes the title very valuable.  The more Cittaslows there are, the less the title gives a city clout for having it.

But shouldn’t all cities be striving for these kinds of goals?  Even when a city does begin to call itself a Cittaslow, often times the residents know little about it and may not be involved in any projects.  More grassroots organizing would appear to be a more successful route, but funding opportunities are scarce unless the state is rebudgeting for Cittaslow activities.  And as Dr. Hoeschele has been doing qualitative research in Germany, Italiy, and England, he has also noticed that many of the citizens in Cittaslows aren’t familiar with it or what the city has done.  Valuable things are coming out of the Cittaslow project, but to what extent should we be concerned with popular action and grassroots movements.  Is this accomplishing the cultural preservation goals it’s intended for if it’s primarily a tourism advantage?

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~ by hannahlh on April 26, 2009.

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