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Beyond Sustainable Economy: Slow City - A New Road to Speed Aparigraha

Published: 29.07.2017

Strange, but true, there are, in the year 2015, more than 192 towns in 30 countries certified as Slow Cities which are, by definition, small (population below 50,000), devoted to sustainability and improving the residents' quality of life; By the end of 2015 there were three of them in USA, more then ten in Poland, Germany and South Korea, but most (75) are in Italy where a movement called Slow Food spawned a new organization called Cittaslow International, an organization dedicated to promoting sustainable urban life.

In 2010, Yaxi, a town of 20,000 in China, was designated as a Slow City as its residents are confident that Yaxi can be a model for the rest of a country whose GDP has been galloping at a breakneck speed, gobbling up and stockpiling natural resources like coal, iron and oil and natural gas from all over the world.

Cittaslow, Italian, translates as Slow City in English, was founded in Italy in 1999, its goals clearly specified as "... improving the quality of life in towns by slowing down its overall pace, especially... the flow of life and traffic through them."[1] Paradoxically, the Cittaslow movement spilled out of Italy at great speed and by 2006 Cittaslow networks existed in Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom and, by mid 2009, 14 countries had at least one officially accredited the status of Cittaslow community or Slow City. Yaxi is not only a pioneer for the People's Republic of China but is it is also one of the first Slow Cities in the developing countries of the world.

To qualify as Slow City, apart from the benchmark population-size of less than 50,000, all candidate towns are expected to combat pollution, practice organic farming, promote local crafts and encourage eco-friendly development; in the words of Pier Giorgio Olivetti, Cittaslow director, Yaxi's accreditation is certainly remarkable: "It's not easy in China - life is too fast in many parts of the country, but in Yaxi we found people very committed to respecting nature," adding, "I remember the flowers and fruit trees and thousands of butterflies in the fields."

The 'Emerging Economies' of Asia like China and India are rapidly ascending the global GDP pyramid and both are likely to figure amongst the top three in the near future, but there is some evidence that Yaxi's certification as a Cittaslow is indicative of a growing disenchantment with the type of GDP accumulation which results in environmental degradation. Even so, the enlargement of the Cittaslow movement is not assured either in China or even in India, but a survey revealed that a small but growing number of middle class Chinese urban dwellers - just under a fifth - wanted a slower lifestyle; for several decades after China and India launched upon their national plans for economic 'take-off' young people have been streaming out of rural backwaters creating untold miseries for themselves as well as the original urban communities, but nearly five years ago Zhuang Qingquan, a Taiwan-born architect, quit his job in Nanjing, China and went to Yaxi to start a pear, watermelon and honeydew farm and expressed his joy of speeding-down by saying, "I feel in harmony with the mountains, water and earth here - it's kind of a magnetic feeling".

Compared to the fruits of the 'Industrial Revolution' in the 18th and 19th century England that have now submerged almost the entire globe, the Cittaslow movement has a very long way to go, but there can be no doubt that the number of Slow Cities is likely to swell as more persons emulate Zhuang Qingquan and adjust their attitudes to embrace the ancient Indian wisdom which enjoined non-possession of material goods (aparigraha) and start walking on the slow roads to a better tomorrow.


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Title: Beyond Sustainable Economy
Author: Dr. Rudi Jansma, Dr. Sushma Singhvi
Publisher: Prakrit Bharati Academy

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  1. Aparigraha
  2. Sustainability
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