For many people who live in the cities of the world food production is something that happens somewhere else. There is an unhealthy and unproductive disconnect between what we eat and the agricultural industry that produces it in vast quantities. Many of us spare little thought for how the things on our plates got there, where they came from and what it cost in terms of human effort and effect on our fragile planet.
With human beings increasing in number at an exponential rate and fossil fuel production having likely almost reached its global peak, it is absolutely essential that we change the way we think about and the way we produce food. Mass, mono-crop agriculture with its heavy reliance on chemical pesticides and herbicides and on polluting non-renewable fuel sources has had its day. We must change if we are to survive and thrive and make our way into a sustainable, renewable future.
But we are not farmers, you may be thinking, we live in a city. How are we to contribute towards future food production and carbon-neutral agriculture? The fact of the matter is that cities are where we must make the most change in order to survive and thrive. There is plenty that people living in cities can do – now – to ethically feed themselves and their neighbors, form strong, healthy communities and transition to renewable food and energy production.
Start a Transition Movement in Your Community
Bringing people together is the first stage in greening your city. Co-operation between people who share a similar outlook and the same goals can achieve great things in a relatively short period of time. Act local and think global. The Transition movement gives a range of steps for would-be activists to follow and you can see the examples of other towns and cities worldwide that have already begun to do great things together.
Grow Your Own
Whether you have a large garden or a tiny apartment, you can almost certainly find some small way to start to grow at least a little food. In cities, where space is often at a premium, everyone should use what space they have to the best of their ability. Do you have a lawn? Turn it into vegetable beds or plant a fruit tree. If you are older or have mobility problems, why not do a deal with someone else in your community who can do the gardening in return for the space and a share of the produce.
Gardening is easier than you think, especially if you implement low-effort permaculture techniques. Do you have a balcony or porch? Does your apartment building have a communal roof space? If the space is your own you can grow plenty of food in a pot garden and even grow food vertically up walls to save on space.
Join together with neighbors in your block to turn those rooftops and neglected communal spaces into idyllic gardens and growing spaces. See a neglected area or wasted ground in your city? Find out who it belongs to and campaign to turn it into a lively and productive community space.
The only limits to what can be achieved are insular people and a lack of imagination. City streets and wasted, rubbish-strewn land can become useful and functional once more if people come together, re-learn old skills and work individually and collaboratively to turn their city green.