Regeneration The Art of Sustainable Living

Meetings with fascinating ecological Regenerators. Grounded sustainable thinking and commentary from a Permaculture perspective.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Suburbia as Solution ?!

Suburbia as Solution ?!

In keeping with the idea that the problem can be the solution if we change our minds about "waste", I give you Suburbia as solution.

If ever a "wasteland" there was....

If one could step back from the debate around ecological degradation and take a whole-systems look at things, we'd see what currently escapes our attention.

We gotta eat.

While the world is applauding Holland for example for its model greeness, we neglect to recognize that it needs a land area 17 times its size to provision it with food !

Where is our food coming from and what's it costing us?

Currently every pound of food is roughly akin to 10 pounds of C02 emissions owing to the sorry fact that our food travels on average nearly 2000km to get to our mouths.

Every bushel of corn, wheat and soya represents between 6 and 10 bushels of soil lost.

"So what ?" You may well ask. Good question my astute friend !

See, once the soil is mined out, tilled up and beat down to mere dirt, it becomes vulnerable to being washed and blown away - Proverbial "dust in the wind".

The traditional "solution" has been to abandon it and seek "greener pastures". Go West young man. And once you hit the coast, transfer your agricultural needs to the third world and mine its resources.
We deplore the burning of the amazon but don't seem to recognize that it's happening to compensate for our inability to feed ourselves.

And how we can achieve food self-sufficiency has much to do with Suburbia.

Say what ?

Have you ever considered why cities get settled where they do ?

It's simple, humans chose the locations for their soils - Typically sediment river frontage.

And where do suburbs go ? Well as the Vermont farmer is fond of saying "the only thing growing on our fields are houses".

In other words, our myopic (sub)urban planning, borne of a blindness towards sustainability is depriving of us of the very lands that would allow us to move towards a sustainable food source.

The solution then is to begin to reclaim these neglected lands and reintroduce organic agriculture into our midsts.

Model on the Ground

One of the segments we'll be featuring on our tv show Regeneration - The Art of Sustainable Living is the Intervale in downtown Burlington.

This is one of the best examples of urban regeneration in the entire nation.

Serving as an incubator for farmers and value added businesses, it aims to provision the city of with a whopping 10% of its food. As a bonus, it has also become a wonderful park-like setting drawing visitors and wildlife alike.

Furthermore, it adresses issues of "waste". Here organic material ("garbage") is recycled into primo compost providing not only the (chemical free) fertility for the farms but also keeping the landfills free of methane producing waste.

And in terms of profitability it can't be beat: Farmers get the full retail value for their work while the communoty at large benefits from the health giving properties of this ultra nutritious produce.

Suburbs as solution .... Whod'a thunk it ?

Claude William Genest

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