Friday, May 7, 2010

Gardening as Social Change

One bored day last month, I did something that I haven't done in a long time. I opened the paper and read the comics page. And I almost dropped it. I'm talking about The Boston Globe, a fairly mainstream paper. And there on the comics page is a character trudging water to his garden, muttering "No more fast food! No more processed junk! No more factory farming! No more corporate monopoly!" (Jimmy Johnson, Arlo & Janis, 4/13/10) I couldn't have put it better myself.

When most people think about gardening, they hardly see it as a radical activity. It's often viewed as a harmless way to get a little fresh food. But it is also a direct counter to the food industry, a way to move from supporting Agribusiness to growing our own and taking care of ourselves. And, if the peak oil folks are anywhere near correct, it's preparation for a future where we will all be growing our own food.

Richard Heinberg predicts that there will be 'fifty million farmers' in the future. (See my post on Peak Everything, 7/20/08.) Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton have written a book called A Nation of Farmers that argues the only way we will be able to keep our families from going hungry as food crises continue will be by growing food. They further argue that any real equality can only come about when we live simply, and that means (among other things) growing our own food.

This is why I have been writing posts on Permaculture (see my posts of 7/22/08, 11/19/09, and 12/24/09 for more on Permaculture), Biointensive Gardening (see my post, Biointensive, 2/10/10), Soil (in my posts of 5/13/09 and 3/13/10), and even Kale, Carrots, and Chard (3/17/10). Food is one of the most basic of our needs. Someone needs to grow the food, since we need food to live, and the question is--will it be Agribusiness or you? I strongly believe in supporting farmers, in CSAs and Farmer's Markets and Food Cooperatives, but I think that soon we will all need to contribute to feeding ourselves--and others. It can start with a little plot in the backyard (if you have a backyard), or at a community garden, or even doing container gardening, but we might as well all get started gardening now. This is a small but important step toward a future where we feed each other. And, I think it would be good to begin learning now, because if there is a food crisis coming, that is not going to be a good time for learning.

Quote of the Day: "...most rich world denizens would prefer not to live in a society with a high degree of equity, since this means a major shift in their wealth. Most Americans, quite reasonably have no desire to live on $2-$5 per day with 9 billion other similarly poor people. Now that $2 a day figure is a bit misleading—it can cover a surprising range of life situations, from the hellaceous to the pretty comfortable. ...if you live on a small farm and grow almost all the food you eat, produce the heating and cooking fuel you need and need just a little money, you might not have such a tough time." - Aaron Newton and Sharon Astyk


CrackerLilo said...

I know it's pretty mainstream to grow or raise *something* in Brooklyn. Some people even manage bees or chickens. The only problem I see is it's really difficult to grow grain in an urban or suburban setting, but maybe someone's working on that now.

If a concept's made it into newspaper comics, it's definitely gone mainstream!

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for the comment. And, yes, gardening has gone pretty mainstream--it was that the concept of gardening as social change showed up on the comics page ("No more corporate monopoly!") that flipped me out.

And, yeah, I don't expect fields of wheat to start growing in the city anytime soon--but I know people who have raised buckwheat, which, I can tell you, makes a pretty nice breakfast.

I hope all is well with you and thanks again for the comment.

Turil said...

I actually lived on $2 a day last year, in very comfortable and generally joyful style. My obligations were only 15 hours a week, and the rest of my time was reserved for pursuing my passions of making the world a better place. :-)

I did have food stamps for most of the time, and so gardening is crucial for me to have better options for getting my food. (Though the wild food week was pretty cool!) Lack of space to garden is clearly the biggest problem for most urban dwellers. Leaded soil is another, because where there is space for gardening there is often also toxins that make it not quite appropriate for growing food. So I think along with some kind of official and/or social encouragement for using yards as urban farms (which is happening more and more) some affordable and sustainable way to remove the lead is what we most need, to make our lives more resilient.

MoonRaven said...

Good points. I did think that your week of living on wild food was pretty cool--at least from the descriptions on your blog. And leaded soil is a big problem--raised beds and container gardening help a lot (along with soil testing) but I totally agree that we need affordable and sustainable methods of removing lead and other toxic metals.

Thanks for the comment!

Jerry said...

I wonder if myco-remediation has potential in heavy metal removal.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks, Jerry. I think that's an idea worth pursuing.