Monday, October 6, 2014

"Urban farming is a scene"

Saturday's post on Naomi Klein's latest anti-capitalist screed included a link to a detailed takedown by freelancer Will Boisvert, He was previously unknown to me and reading his piece lead me to stumble upon a piece he wrote last year about urban farming in New York City.

It's brilliant. While the focus is on the environmental fake-outs, he does indeed go into the economic arguments I focus on. Here's a sample.

Consider some iconic acre of Brooklyn vacant lot. You could grow food on it — or you could throw up a 30-story apartment complex housing 600 people. That’s 600 people who won’t be settling in low-density exurbs where they would be smeared across 60 acres of subdivision; in turn, those 60 acres of vacant exurb could remain farmland or forest. Using communal laundromats and lacking basements to put junk in, those new Brooklynites would lead lives of anti-consumerism. And because they would use mass transit instead of driving everywhere, their carbon footprints would be roughly a third as large as the average American’s. That fundamental land-use equation is the key to understanding how cities promote global sustainability. By concentrating high-density housing, business and lifestyles inside its borders, New York lifts enormous burdens from the ecosystem outside its borders, but that potential is squandered when we consign pristine brownfields to low-density crop-growing. We may root for the community gardeners in their eternal battle with real-estate developers, but it’s the developers who are, despite themselves, the better environmentalists.
Well said. The entire piece is brilliant and covers a lot of ground. It's also seeded with gems like this one:

Above all, urban farming is a scene—a classic New York cultural fantasia that’s “about” farming in roughly the same proportion that Oklahoma! is about Oklahoma.

It's thought provoking and draws some comparisons I haven't seen before on the topic, like the unscaleable reliance on volunteer agricultural workers, and brings in the environmental virtues of city life.

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