“Before 1900 every city contained farms and orchards within the city,” writes Bill Mollison in his Introduction to Permaculture.[i] Now food growing has largely been pushed to the outskirts and cities are unable to provide for themselves, consuming far more than they can produce. “Permaculture aims to bring food production back to urban areas.”[ii]
Mollison states that “permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments.”[iii] Long-term sustainability, observing natural systems, and working with, rather than against nature are key ideas. In direct contrast to our current agricultural systems which are based on non-renewable resources and which consume more energy than they provide, permaculture aims to meet the needs of the system from within the system, whether that system is a home, a city, a farm or a larger human community.
Mollison also developed an ethics of permaculture: “Care of the earth, care of people, and dispersal of surplus time, money, and materials towards these ends.”[iv] Through the thoughtful consideration of the needs of both the earth and people, we can provide for the needs of both in sustainable ways. Further, by sharing our surpluses where they are needed and thereby promoting cooperation over competition, we can maintain systems which are just and equitable to humans and the earth, which help us to “recognize the intrinsic worth of every living thing.”[v]
“The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported [in November 2007] that, at nearly $100 a barrel, the price of oil has sent the cost of food imports skyrocketing this year.”[vi] Oil is the blood of our current food system, and as supplies diminish and costs rise, food prices increase around the world. Not only is oil used to transport most food over a thousand miles from where it was grown on average, the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that large scale agriculture depends on are derived from petroleum. Further, the burning of fossil fuels involved in the transportation and storage of food is a main source of greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming and climate change. Studies published in early 2008 “suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide.”[vii]
Large scale industrial agriculture also depletes the soil and pollutes the water. It’s a non-sustainable way of feeding ourselves, with many costs borne by the earth, communities, and individuals. The true cost of our “cheap” agricultural products is not borne by the producers, with our tax dollars subsidizing at least $80 billion annually to maintain and prop up conventional agricultural practices[viii]. Additionally, our soil, air, water, ecosystems, families and communities are paying the price through soil erosion, air and water pollution, cancer, and ecological collapse.
Urban Edibles is an organic food growing business that works in the small scale of city yards and spaces, growing food where the people live. By avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides, Urban Edibles will address and reduce these sources of pollution through utilizing organic methods. By growing food locally, transportation “food miles” and the accompanying greenhouse gas pollution are also greatly reduced or eliminated. Growing healthy organic food contributes to soil, air, and water quality, as well as positive human health, while growing food where people live contributes to local food security, builds healthy regional “foodsheds”, and promotes community self-reliance.
[i] Bill Mollison with Slay, Rena Mia. Introduction to Permaculture. (Tasmania: Tagari Publications, 1991), 171.
[ii] Mollison, 171
[iii] Mollison, 1
[iv] Mollison, 3
[v] Mollison, 3
[vi] Kathleen Kingsbury. “After the Oil Crisis, A Food Crisis? “ Time, Nov. 16, 2007. http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1684910,00.html.
[vii] Juliet Eilperin. “Carbon Output Must Near Zero To Avert Danger, New Studies Say.” Washington Post, March 10, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/09/
[viii] Barbara Kingsolver with Hopp, Steven L. and Kingsolver, Camille. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 117.
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