Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Green Cities: time to walk the talk.

Being that I live near a city that is very concerned about its carbon footprint, (so much so streets get shut down to cars and beach bonfires are banned) I am rather surprised how little is done on their own part to improve the environment.  There are literally square miles of parks, parking strips and medians that lie fallow or are planted with ornamental plants.  My hat is off to the many hundreds of intrepid gardeners that convert parking strips and roundabouts for gardens and plant diversity. 

If cities really wanted to make changes to become greener, the low hanging fruit that doesn't impose laws on what people can or can't do is to utilize city land for plant diversity, carbon sequestration and food production. 

The average American meal travels over 1500 miles to reach their plate.  The transportation costs are offset by doing agriculture on such a large scale it produces food long as oil and natural gas prices stay low.  What happens at $150 a barrel oil?  Food becomes more expensive as it costs more to fertilize and transport. 

I understand it is not feasible for a city to produce all of its own food but, what is the logic behind planting municipal land with ornamental and typically with little diversity.  Just phasing in some hardy fruit and nut trees and shrubs would provide some food for those who want it at no extra cost to taxpayers.  There is also more of a sense of ownership for people.  If you have a fruit tree in front of your house that you eat from you will be more likely to look after it than a tree that you don't get anything from. 

This could work to augment efforts to help the homeless the hungry and city supported food banks.  Schools could put in a few trees to show that food doesn't come from a store but a farm or garden.  Eating publicly grown produce is not for everyone of course but just that it is there millions of calories will get eaten by somebody and that is one less trip food has to make.

Many cities are already doing this, there has been a groundswell of interest in urban gardening, pea patches and converting your front yard into a food source.  The emphasis now should be to stay on city governments to make sure they are good stewards of the earth and our tax dollars at the same time. 

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