"In the distant past, the city functioned more or less as a self-sustaining system. All that now remains is consumption." -- Regine Debatty, Worldchanging.com
Over the past week I've noticed a number of articles popping up about cities and food. The quote above, which I found particularly provocative, came from an article about an exhibit in Maastricht called "The Edible City," which focuses on the role that food plays in contemporary society. I think that line captures the current problem facing metropolitanized areas, especially stateside. Food plays a huge role in our daily lives, and the idea that it could play a role in the reconstruction of urban communities seems powerful to me.
Another article over at AlterNet covered urban gardening efforts around the U.S. Hearing quotes from proud locals reminded me of the stories that I had heard about Victory Gardens during WWII. These gardens not only lessened demand on the industrial community (so that I could focus on weapons production), they provided their owners with a genuine sense of pride. Victory gardens were a symbol of a family's commitment to the nation during a difficult time.
Cities, now, are facing a difficult time. While gentrification is adding cash to the tax base of many cities, huge stretches still remain impoverished, both in the States and around the world. A big part of the solution to urban problems, of course, is the strengthening of urban communities. It seems natural, then, that the creation of community gardens could serve as a big part of the community-building process. A quote from one of AlterNet's urban gardeners highlights one of the major benefits: "Just having face-to-face contact -- that's something that's very positive...It's the kind of thing that feeds your soul."
By getting people together to work on a project that directly impacts their communities, socially and visually, urban gardens can help communities develop their own self-sustaining systems. These gardens have been around for a while, but they don't seem to have caught on as a major trend...yet. The rumblings on the internets seem to suggest a change in that area.
Urban Farming: Coming to a City Near You (AlterNet)
Edible City: Part I (WorldChanging)
EDIT (4/9/2007 - 7:20 PM): Check out the second (and equally fascinating) part of the Edible City coverage by following this link--and don't miss the part about Fritz Haeg's "Edible Estates" project.