In the fast-paced global era that we live in today, worldwide companies and organizations branch from one continent to the next. Odds are, if you look at any given product in your house, it was grown or made in another country, in unknown conditions, and then shipped over to you. Because of this, a counterculture movement has emerged: the slow movement.
It all started in Rome in 1986 when an Italian man protested the opening of a McDonald’s by starting his own slow food movement, which specialised in the slow production of quality food. The concept has since grown into every other area imaginable, from fashion to parenting to entire cities.
The slow movement, however, isn’t just about taking your time. It’s about rejecting the idea that fast is always better. In fact, it insists that slowing down your life will give you a better quality of goods and living. Because if you take the time to slow down and appreciate what you do, and what others have done for you, you can see the love and care that went into it.
There is more to it than that, of course. The slow movement also has very real environmental, economic and social effects as well. Let’s take a look at what they are.
Without a doubt, the fast movement is one of the worst things that has ever happened to our planet environmentally. Since the industrial revolution, which was the beginning of the fast movement, global CO2 levels have soared. Companies don’t care about how much they waste, they care about how much they produce to sell. This means that food, clothes, or any other product that isn’t shelf-perfect are usually immediately thrown out so it doesn’t waste the shelf space of something that will sell. This creates millions of tonnes of waste every year, all product that went through all the stages of production but no one ever got the chance to buy.
Slow almost always means local, since fast almost always means global. What does that mean for the economy? Well, in buying slow, you are supporting local businesses, and putting money back into the local economy, which means more jobs and more disposable income at the local level. Supporting the local economy also means strengthening it, which means in times of economic downturn it will fare better since it is more self-sufficient.
The social aspects of the slow movement are undeniable since they come as a counterpoint to the fast movement. Because of the realities of fast demand, many companies have chosen to move their production overseas, where labour is much less expensive and labour laws are much laxer. A reality of the fast world is sweat shops, where underpaid and sometimes underage workers to work long hours for next to nothing. In China, it is not uncommon for schoolchildren in rural provinces to have to complete unpaid “internships” at factories, exposing them to dangerous chemicals, before they can graduate. Oftentimes, these “internships” are extended and the children chose to start work in these factories rather than graduate so they can at least make money.
And who can forget what happened in Bangladesh in 2013, when a building collapse at a Joe Fresh factory killed over 230 people. The police had previously ordered the building to be evacuated because of serious damage to the structure, but the company ignored the authorities and told its employees to keep working to that they could meet the quota of a fast fashion company.
The slow movement offers an alternative to this, where products are made by hand by companies whose only goal is to produce quality products slowly. They are often made locally, where direct oversight if not direct involvement is possible.
And it’s not to say that the slow movement comes easily. It depends on us, the consumers, to make the slow choice every day. Perhaps it means products are a little more expensive, but slow products last longer, support local producers and are made with care and attention. If you want to support the slow movement, you must make the slow choice every day.