Even though I abandoned Brooklyn for the Appalachians, I’m no sentimental pastoralist. I’m a long-term disciple of the great urban theorist (and champion of cities) Jane Jacobs. Human history since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago has been a history of cities. Cities are the future; as David Owen’s superb article “Green Manhattan” (PDF) shows, they may be our only hope. The trick is to create agricultural systems within and just outside of cities, minimizing the ruinous effects of long-haul freight transit, slashing the fossil-fuel inputs embedded in food production, maximizing availability of fresh delicious food, and boosting local and even neighborhood economies.
Farmers’ markets have been the most visible effort at creating sustainable urban food networks. Equally if not more important, although virtually invisible to well-heeled urban foodies who laudably support farmers’ markets, inner-city gardening projects represent a vanguard in the effort to overthrow industrial food and reintroduce sustainably grown, delicious food to populations that were knocked off the land a generation or two ago.
There’s been a lot of talk around here about whether or not humanity’s future requires messing up Bobby Kennedy Jr.’s ocean view from “the Vineyard.” (I say, the hell with him. Mess it up!) This story may be more important, though: An LA developer wants to bulldoze a 14-acre community garden, with 360 family plots, right in the middle of an industrial zone in South Central. The city should be paying these people to do what they’re doing, for all the environmental and social benefits they’re creating. At the very least, the city should buy the land back from the developer and make the garden permanent.
LA greens, and I know you’re out there, get out and man the barricades with those brave gardeners.