Not sure what to make of this: New Urbanism for the Apocalypse (in FastCompany, a mag perhaps better known for technology and bright & shiny things, not for in-depth urbanism or for agriculture…). Not a new article (published May 2010), but focused on Andrés Duany, a founder of New Urbanism, who is fed up by how New Urbanism has been popularized (as a panacea?), and who (according to the article) now argues that it’s dead.
We should instead be cultivating our gardens. Urban gardens, that is. Turns out that mammals garden, but dinosaurs don’t:
“New Urbanism has been so successful that it has a lot of dinosaur DNA. The honchos are on board — you’ve seen them here. They want us to join them. Do we want to run among the dinosaurs, or among the mammals? I want to be is among the mammals.” (source)
Agriculture – more specifically: FOOD – is at the root of it. The New New Urbanism, it seems, is agrarian urbanism.
I do have a problem with this. My mother grew a lot of our family’s food – not as a hobby, but because we were poor and we needed to eat. There was a certain magic about her version of square-foot-gardening (ok, more like three-square-meters-gardening!), but I also remember that it was a sh*tload of work. I cannot imagine wanting to do that kind of work, day in and day out. Full stop.
So I did a double take reading this:
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.” The money to pay for them — and for the farms — already exists in developers’ landscaping budgets. Stop building golf courses and start building farms, in other words. “We have American cheap labor, too,” he said. “Ourselves, except we’re spending it on ornamental bushes.” (source)
…Right …ok… Hispanic laborers? Really? And Uncle Juan and Auntie Juanita will be …what? Sort of like Tom and Jemima?
Given that the article segues seamlessly from here to James Kunstler (who has made a nice living of late lecturing us about the coming apocalypse derived from oil-dependent cars and the possible upcoming need for horse-drawn carriages as he flies around the world in oil-dependent airplanes to make his living lecturing us about… eh, is this getting circular yet?) I left the page grumpy.
I happened also to have been reading about a friend of mine whose father has some ideas of his own about agriculture. Her father’s ideas derive from what looks like a very different ideological starting point, which makes me wonder about how different ends of spectrum can curve and meet. I’m not dissing the importance of agriculture and food – just saying it’s a well-encrusted (ideologically speaking) subject, and maybe, whenever we bring it up, we need to know all the paths that lead to it from the past. Just so we, you know, have an idea of how we’re mapping the paths from it that lead into the future.