Report on “Slow Living Summit” in Brattleboro

Slow Living Summit Brattleboro, VT 2011

I had the opportunity to attend one day of the Slow Living Summit last month in Brattleboro, VT, and was excited to see the enthusiasm, activism, and hope of the people who attended. With a combination of focused concurrent sessions, plenary talks or panels, and additional open space sessions, there was plenty to learn about alternative energy, Transition Towns, organic food, slow money, and much more.

The day culminated with a talk by Bill McKibben, an extremely knowledgeable and entertaining speaker who had just finished a 2000 mile road trip and was happy to be close to home. He began his talk with very positive words about the progress of the local movement, citing encouraging facts such as the number of farms is growing for the first time in many years. However, he did transition into his ‘professional bummer outer’ role, as he put it, to discuss the facts about our global situation. The earth has already warmed up by one degree, and because warm air can hold more moisture, it sets the stage for the extreme weather we are already experiencing. Some areas get dryer, while other areas experience flooding. All of this affects crops and therefore food prices. With the current situation we are guaranteed another degree of warming, but if steps are not taken, it is likely this will be 3-5 degrees in the long term… Earth would be uninhabitable in those conditions, McKibben says. So McKibben’s take home message was that the local movement is great, but it might be moot if we don’t make significant changes globally as well. He created 350.org for this purpose, and encouraged people to try to act locally to have a global impact: some steps he suggested are the following (which can also be found on the 350.org website):

  • Sept 24th 2011 is Moving Planet day – another day for people to come together and show support through action, with a focus on people-powered transportation.
  • ‘The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak for Me’ campaign. McKibben notes that 55% of the US Chamber of Commerce funding comes from 16 companies, and it has always opposed climate change reform. He is encouraging small businesses and local Chambers of Commerce to declare the ‘The US Chamber of Commerce doesn’t speak for me’. Learn more at 350.org.

As his talk came to a finish, McKibben asserted that even though some may feel this is a losing battle, if you are morally awake, you need to do what you can to better the odds.

~ Laurie DiDonato

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