By Robert Hart, MBA Candidate, Marlboro College Graduate School

The Slow Living Summit kicked off at the historic Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, VT with a bang, an outstanding panel discussion.  The speakers on the evening panel included Will Rapp, CEO Gardener’s Supply; Josh Viertel of Slow Food USA; Majora Carter, President Majora Carter Group, and founder of Sustainable South Bronx; John Cavanagh, Institute for Policy Studies and New Economy Working Group; and panel moderator Trish Karter, co-founder of Dancing Deer Baking Co.  Trish said of the panel: “These four people don’t check their values at the door.”

The panel debated just what slow living is. Will Rapp talked about the tornadoes of late, two of which struck Massachusetts tonight, leading Governor Deval Patrick to declare a state of emergency, by saying “we know the challenges, mother nature has demonstrated that more than ever these days.”  Rapp talked about stories of redemption, that can bring us back to a sense of balance and how business can be a contributor.

Systems thinking was a common thread – the panel wove issues of food, sustainability, water crisis, sustainable communities, and climate change.  In terms of business and the economy, those disparate elements were described by Will Rapp as a Restoration Economy.  How do we create a restoration economy?  How do we measure progress and success?

John Kavanagh made a bold prediction, that in ten  years, many of those in the audience would look back on this conference as the beginning of a transformative movement, that changed our lives.

Josh Vitriel said that “There is a story behind our food, it shouldn’t be a story that causes you to lose your appetite.” He spoke of community members that are getting together to build the kind of community they want, all over the country.  The movement he described is not just about being enlightened eaters, it is about being engaged consumers, engaged citizens.  He said that “If we tell people to vote with their forks, in a lot of places there are no polling stations.  Vote with your fork is not going to get us there.”

Majora Carter posited that instead of Homeland Security, we should be seeking “Hometown security.”  Hometown security comes when you know your hometown is meeting the needs of the people in it.

Slow living is just another term, but the sense from the stage was that this developing movement is about addressing complex problems from a systems perspective, and giving folks dignity and meaning in their lives, rebuilding local economies.  It was a lively discussion, and an outstanding beginning to this inaugural Slow Living Summit.