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Everywhere and nowhere

May 18, 2010

Helmut Holzapfel in Le Monde Diplomatique:

A few years ago writers such as Sten Nadolny and the cultural historian Wolfgang Sachs coined the words “the New Slowness” to open the discussion and make the first effective critique of a society of restless haste. They said that for millennia mankind had to rely on the limited speed of man and animal to get anywhere. Only in the past 200 years have the distances that people can cover expanded dramatically. This expansion has decisively changed our perception of space, landscapes and more generally of space and time. And by now, this expansion seems to be indispensable and irreversible. People have forgotten that care, clarity and reflection require time.

A “distance-intensive” lifestyle has emerged and is taken for granted, at least in modern industrialised societies; it has become a typical way of living shaping attitudes and behaviour for part of the population. A distance-intensive lifestyle means large distances covered in ever-smaller units of time, not only in personal travelling, but by the products consumed. Even in health food shops, Argentinean honey or apples from oases in the Brazilian jungle are freely available. The lifestyle means constant availability and spatial accessibility for people and products: Australian or Californian wine, strawberries at Christmas, most likely from South Africa. People fly from Hamburg to Milan for an evening at the opera, and back the next morning. And they live in the suburbs in a detached house with a double or triple garage outside (an SUV is a must); the house is in a beautiful location, yet a blot on the landscape. [More]

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