Sunday, March 6, 2011

Resilient Communities

I stumbled across the Windowfarms Project while poking around today.  This is the most encouraging thing I've read about life in the urban wasteland in a long time.  Maybe ever. 

If I were you, I'd watch on Youtube or full screen, higher res. Go ahead.  I'll wait.

The comments are probably right that if you just consider price, they would be better off to work at a job during the time they do all that work to garden and buy their veggies: big farms produce food cheaper because of economies of scale.  That has absolutely nothing to do with why gardening is a popular hobby and even less to do with why this is A Good Thing. 

Anyone who grows their own tomatoes knows that they taste far better than what you get in the store.  Already, in the early spring, we have more lettuce than we know what to do with (it's good-tasting lettuce, too) and a few tomatoes coming in.  The bell peppers never stopped producing, despite some freeze damage in December, and the jalapenos are looking productive, too. 

Last year, I saw an article about people in New York using their kitchen appliances as closet space.  Think shoes in the refrigerator and clothes in the oven. In the event of a disruption in the supply chain, people with shoes in the fridge will be starving within days.  I used to joke that after a hurricane, people in Miami would be eating each other within three days.  I don't anymore; it ain't funny. 

I know it takes a lot of space to grow enough food for yourself.  The hydroponic farm in your apartment window won't make it.  But a little bit of food will really be nice to have when it all goes down.  Combined with the people who grow food gardens in city lots, it might prevent total death and devastation. 


  1. Yeah, it's encouraging that some people are doing this. I'm tempted to do a bit of that myself.

    Regarding food gardens in city lots, somehow I don't think that a bunch of disarmed urbanites will be able to defend their garden spaces from (hypothetical) roaming gangs of thugs, or even the overwhelming demand from their totally unprepared neighbors.

  2. Addendum: I'm picturing a cropland stripped bare after a locust swarm...

  3. Don't worry - the city garden spaces will be seized by the police to redistribute to the people who didn't grow food. Just like the police will seize the stored food of suburbanite preppers.

    Sort of a "Grand Unification Of Oppression".

    Make sense?

  4. Graybeard, like you, I think this is "A Good Thing," but, and as you note, these window gardens are like putting a bandaid on a gaping stomach wound.

    The economies of scale required for these window gardens to be a means of individual self sufficieny are just not possible.

  5. Having been stuffed in a city before, I think this is a wonderful thing for reasons that have very little to do with supply chains, and a lot to do with mental health and education in life.

    Green and growing things are refreshing to the soul, and tending a garden allows one to briefly set aside all the things they could have, should have, or ought to have done, and instead focus on what is really there in front of them.

    It is also a way of reaching people and getting them interested in making and doing something, instead of leaving them utterly oblivious to their dependency on other people. Hydroponics can be tricky - learning to balance Ph and provide sufficient nutrients requires more than hope, change, and good vibrations. The attendant lesson that you have to work at maintaining a system in order to reap results, instead of making a big PR campaign or election and then ignoring it for the next big thing, is also valuable.

    I've seen several people go from swaddled in smothering liberal worldview with no clue that beef came from moo-cows to oddly libertarian, without even realizing that they were changing. The key was food: they wanted better, tastier food, and so they started with farmers markets and gardening, then foraging, then fishing, then hunting... and then one day, you find them fuming at the size of the government, and swearing we need to get rid of half of it, and why do we have to have permits for everything and regulations to prohibit common sense? And, damnit, students should be allowed to carry on campus, as they're responsible adults.

    Most will never get there, but if you start with enough clueless hipsters rigging up hydroponics farms, the harvest down the road can be very interesting indeed.

  6. On a Wing and a Whim, excellent points in there.

    I think it was Cicero who said something like, "all a man needs is a garden and a library". Even then, a time we view as much harsher, cruder, and tougher in every way, a garden was that respite for the soul you describe. As is the library.

    And your other point about hipsters turning into libertarians is one I had never thought of. Probably because I've never witnessed it.