Creating harmony, simplicity and peace in the landscape......

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.

Gardening is an instrument of grace. " - May Sarton


Saturday, May 29, 2010

The 'Locavores' Save the World

(from Fast Company website)

My graduate degree is in land planning, specifically, 'urban and regional planning'.  A misnomer in my case since I was already, back decades ago, a devotee of E.F. Schumacher and his 'small is beautiful' ideas.

In 1955, the British born Schumacher (b.1911) accepted a three month assignment as Economic Development Adviser to the Government of Burma.  He soon concluded that the last thing the Burmese people needed was Western style economic develop­ment. He suggested that they develop a ‘middle way’ between the Western mode of increasing material consumption (satisfied by mechanised production) and the Buddhist ideal of satisfying human needs through dignified work (which also purified one’s character and was a spiritual offering).  He later coined the term ‘Buddhist Economics’ for a way of life that has respect for meaningful work and he urged industrial countries to scale down their ‘wants’ in order to meet their real physical and psychological needs.

The officials in Burma did not appreciate his report.  

Undeterred, Schumacher went on to extol the value of self sufficiency. He said fuel and food were the two basic necessi­ties for survival and sustainability and urged all communities and regions to be as self-sufficient as far as possible — otherwise they become economically and politically vulnerable.

He also became involved in sustainable agriculture. He spent much time in his organic garden, was President of the UK Soil Association and was an advocate of tree-planting and forest farming schemes wherever he went.

My devotion to Schumacher's ideas years ago did not fit in planning classes which emphasized transit, zoning and floor/area ratios.

( a Duany project in Fort Myers)

But now Andres Duany, the father and planning icon of the 'New Urbanism', is on the same page as me! At a recent conference he advocated that planners create a small-town America that more closely resembles pre-1850 America than pre-1950. 

YAY!!! I have been waiting for this....

Duany is looking beyond 'making the best of suburban America's bad situation' (which he has been doing for all these years with his firm) and is going headlong into agrarian urbanism.

(biz fizz photo from NEF site - see below)

Finally. Thank You, Andres Duany.

Agrarian urbanism is different from "urban agriculture" where we retrofit cities to grow food.

It is differnt from "agricultural urbanism" where an intentional community has a corresponding farm.

"Agrarian urbanism," Duany says,  "is a society involved with the growing of food."  AMEN.

This is not the official 'HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities' - which never once mentions growing food in its livability principles! It is not the intentional communities featuring golf course living, equestrian living, or the 'fly-in' lifestyle.... It is communities built for, as Duany says, 'locavores' or people who eat and produce their own food.

Duany says these comunnuties would be committed to "hand-tended agriculture" in whatever form that takes. It would be part of the homeowners' association agreement. Instead of a strip mall in the town square, there's a "market square" comprised of green markets, restaurants, cooking schools, an agricultural university, and so on.
what?! no shoes?

Here is what an article in Fast company said about Duany's presentation:

"Duany conceded growing food is hard work, which is why his agrarian communities would still end up hiring Hispanic laborers to do the dirty work. But "you don't pretend they don't exist," he said in a particular utopian moment. "The people who grow the food must be known to the kids. And they're the ones who actually know what they're doing -- they know how to build buildings and they know how to grow food."

This brings up prickly social issues galore, I realize that. But the fact is - we need to get back to Mother Earth. Rooftop farming does not solve the issue - farming homesteads and villages do.

See the article from the New York Times 2 days ago on City Slickers Take to the Crops (click on the title for article). We are all heading toward Buddhist Economics.....

for more on this look at the New Economics Foundation website.

(this post is for my friend, Lynn)