Counsel to Cities: Feed Thyself
“Urban agriculture is about revitalizing and transforming public spaces, connecting city residents with their neighborhoods in a new way and promoting healthier eating and living for everybody.”
By Neal Peirce
January 30, 2011
Washington Post Writers Group
Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, goes so far as to define “a food bubble economy — created by overpumping aquifers and overplowing and overgrazing land, and overloading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide.” Like the U.S.-born housing bubble before it, Brown predicts bursting of the food bubble will ricochet worldwide with dire consequences including “survival itself” at stake for peoples living on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder.
It’s an issue that wise cities and metropolitan regions — across the continents — should think about sooner rather than later. Many cities were founded not just as centers of commerce but because of fertile fields, often in lush river valleys. But peripheral growth, the profusion of suburbs, has preempted much of that land — an encroachment growing fast now around developing world metros.
A sound course would say: Conserve as much of the peripheral farmlands as a region can, fostering their careful cultivation. Encourage farmers’ markets. Buy as much food “in country” as one can. And then emulate the best world models of cities fostering food cultivation across their territory, from empty fields and lots to window boxes to rooftops, along with ingenious watering schemes such as reuse of “gray” water for plant nourishment.