Out of the Slow Food movement has grown something called the Slow Cities movement, which has started in Italy but has spread right across Europe and beyond. And in this, towns begin to rethink how they organize the urban landscape so that people are encouraged to slow down and smell the roses and connect with one another.
When it comes to extracurricular activities, many children are getting too much of a good thing.
We're so marinated in the culture of speed that we almost fail to notice the toll it takes on every aspect of our lives – on our health, our diet, our work, our relationships, the environment and our community.
To me, Slow parenting is about bringing balance into the home. Children need to strive and struggle and stretch themselves, but that does not mean childhood should be a race. Slow parents give their children plenty of time and space to explore the world on their own terms.
To help staff recharge and think better, companies are setting aside quiet places to relax, practise yoga or even take a nap. With hi-tech giants such as Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft underlining the pitfalls of being 'always on,' firms are imposing speed limits on the information superhighway.
Aficionados of Slow design and Slow fashion use ethical and green materials to make objects – furniture, clothes, jewellery – that lift the spirit and last a lifetime rather than one catwalk season.
In our fast-forward culture, we have lost the art of eating well. Food is often little more than fuel to pour down the hatch while doing other stuff – surfing the Web, driving, walking along the street. Dining al desko is now the norm in many workplaces. All of this speed takes a toll. Obesity, eating disorders and poor nutrition are rife.
You may have heard of the Slow Movement, which challenges the canard that faster is always better. You don't have to ditch your career, toss the iPhone, or join a commune to take part. Living 'Slow' just means doing everything at the right speed – quickly, slowly, or at whatever pace delivers the best results.
I could be working 300 hours a week. I just say 'no.' The power of slow is the power of no. I can't go to every party I get invited to. I can't do every work thing.
There are times when fixing things quickly is the only option: when you have to channel MacGyver, reach for the duct tape, and cobble together whatever solution works right now. If someone is choking on a morsel of food, you don't sit back, stroke your chin and take the Aristotelian long view. You quickly administer the Heimlich maneuvre.
The spark for 'In Praise of Slowness' came when I began reading to my children. Every parent knows that kids like their bedtime stories read at a gentle, meandering pace. But I used to be too fast to slow down with the Brothers Grimm. I would zoom through the classic fairy tales, skipping lines, paragraphs, whole pages.
I never wanted to be a public figure. I feel that I always have to dampen down people's expectations. They expect me to be an oracle, wave a magic wand, sprinkle some slow, sparkly dust on them, to make everything all right.
Your best ideas, those eureka moments that turn the world upside down, seldom come when you're juggling emails, rushing to meet the 5 P.M. deadline or straining to make your voice heard in a high-stress meeting. They come when you're walking the dog, soaking in the bath or swinging in a hammock.
Smaller families mean we have more time and money to lavish on each child. Parents are more anxious because small families give them less experience of parenting and put their genetic eggs in fewer baskets.
The journey that 'In Praise of Slowness' has made since publication shows how far this message resonates. The book has been translated into more than 30 languages. It appears on reading lists from business schools to yoga retreats. Rabbis, priests and imams have quoted from it in their sermons.
We live in a culture that's been hijacked by the management consultant ethos. We want everything boiled down to a Power Point slide. We want metrics and 'show me the numbers.' That runs counter to the immensely complex nature of so many social, economic and political problems. You cannot devise an algorithm to fix them.
I've teamed up with one of the headmasters at Eton College, and we're spearheading a kind of 'slow education movement in Britain'. It's based on this idea of moving away from the fast-food approach to learning and going to something deeper, more woolly, harder to measure.
'In Praise of Slowness' chronicles the global trend towards deceleration that has come to be known as the Slow Movement. Don't worry, though: it is not a Luddite rant. I love speed. Going fast can be fun, liberating and productive. The problem is that our hunger for speed, for cramming more and more into less and less time, has gone too far.
We know that no algorithm can solve global poverty; no pill can cure a chronic illness; no box of chocolates can mend a broken relationship; no educational DVD can transform a child into a baby Einstein; no drone strike can end a terrorist conflict. Sadly, there is no such thing as 'One Tip to a Flat Stomach.'
We've got 942 friends on Facebook, but when was the last time we spent an afternoon sitting in High Park with one of them?
Sometimes it takes a wake-up call, doesn't it, to alert us to the fact that we're hurrying through our lives instead of actually living them; that we're living the fast life instead of the good life. And I think, for many people, that wake-up call takes the form of an illness.
My first book, 'In Praise of Slowness,' examines how the world got stuck in fast-forward and chronicles a global trend towards putting on the brakes. That trend is called the Slow movement. 'Slow' in this context does not mean doing everything at a snail's pace. It means doing everything at the right speed.
In a world where so much happens through computer screens, making a meal by hand, touching the raw materials, feeling your way through a recipe, tasting, adjusting, engaging all the senses, can be a soothing release.
Our obsession with speed, with cramming more and more into every minute, means that we race through life instead of actually living it. Our health, diet and relationships suffer. We make mistakes at work. We struggle to relax, to enjoy the moment, even to get a decent night's sleep.
I guess I went into journalism to save the world. I always felt through writing that I wanted to rotate the world slightly.
The slow philosophy is not about doing everything in tortoise mode. It's less about the speed and more about investing the right amount of time and attention in the problem so you solve it.
We used to dial; now we speed dial. We used to read; now we speed read. We used to walk; now we speed walk. And of course, we used to date, and now we speed date. And even things that are by their very nature slow – we try and speed them up, too.
Slow parents understand that childrearing should not be a cross between a competitive sport and product-development. It is not a project; it's a journey. Slow parenting is about giving kids lots of love and attention with no conditions attached.
Everywhere, people are discovering that doing things more slowly often means doing them better and enjoying them more. It means living life instead of rushing through it. You can apply this to everything from food to parenting to work.
Research has shown that time pressure leads to tunnel vision and that people think more creatively when they are calm, unhurried and free from stress and distractions. We all know this from experience.
Many kids, particularly in lower-income families, would actually benefit from more structured activities. Plenty of children, especially teenagers, thrive on a busy schedule. But just as other trappings of modern childhood, from homework to technology, are subject to the law of diminishing returns, there is a danger of overscheduling the young.
You don't have to work for Google, or any of the other firms encouraging staff to pursue personal projects on company time, to use slowness to unlock your creativity. Anyone can do it. Start by clearing space in your schedule for rest, daydreaming and serendipity. Take breaks away from your desk, especially when you get stuck on a problem.
Warnings about children being overscheduled, racing from one enriching activity to the next, first surfaced in the early 20th century.
Whether it's mending a failing company, fighting corruption, tackling disease, or rebuilding a marriage, the hardest problems defy just-add-water remedies. Indeed, slapping on a Band-Aid when surgery is needed usually just makes things worse.
There is so much to be gained from investing more time in what we eat. Buying fresh ingredients means knowing where your food comes from and what's in it.
I'm not a Luddite at all. I love all this stuff. I look at all the gadgets that come out and I think, 'Oh, this fix works for me. But the rest don't.' I'm not genuflecting in front of the God of Newness.
Slow travel now rivals the fly-to-Barcelona-for-lunch culture. Advocates savour the journey, travelling by train or boat or bicycle, or even on foot, rather than crammed into an airplane. They take time to plug into the local culture instead of racing through a list of tourist traps.
Turn the preparing of food into a communal affair by enlisting others to help with the chopping, grating, stirring, simmering, tasting and seasoning. When the cooking is finished, eat together round the table with the electronic gadgets switched off so you can savor the food and let the conversation flow.
When moms stayed home, it was easier just to let the kids play around the house. But as women entered the workplace and the extended family dissolved, someone else had to pick up the slack on the child-care front. Extracurricular activities fit the bill perfectly, promising not only supervision but also enrichment.
In this media-drenched, multitasking, always-on age, many of us have forgotten how to unplug and immerse ourselves completely in the moment. We have forgotten how to slow down. Not surprisingly, this fast-forward culture is taking a toll on everything from our diet and health to our work and the environment.