Making Your City Work in an Unstable Future

Ok, as part of Urbanization Week, I'm really excited to hear more about what people who have committed to their own cities are doing to make them work. So here's your chance to tell me about your place, small city or large, and how you are improving your place, and making it ready for the coming changes! Please feel free to post links to cool stuff you are doing as well - I'd love to see it!



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Ok, I have to go frantically clean my house. Objectively I know that the social worker wants to know that the house is clean, safe and appropriate for kids, not to look at the shine on the linoleum (of which there is presently none ;-)). In my inner heart, however, I'm pretty sure she's going to…
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It hasn't escaped my notice that today is November 1, and I'm supposed to be starting the Whole-Life Redesign Project. In fact, I am starting it - I'm taking the opportunity created by my kids being out of the house to move all the food storage around and clean under things and get rid of things (…

It's a medium-large city in the Midlands of England. This area is mostly a single post-war housing estate - concrete roads poured by German prisoners of war, lots of sheet-metal and prefab houses still standing - approx 7000 people live in this area. We have a more modern house, built in the late 70s when some of the prefabs were demolished.
We're working towards getting the Council to let a group of residents start a Food Project on a derelict site. It's been empty for fifteen years since a school was knocked down and moved to a new site. The old sports field is a bit over 1 Ha and that's what we are looking at. I know it won't feed everyone but I think we could work up to meeting a lot of the needs of fifty families for fruit and veg over the next couple of years and then look at which other bits of land in the area could also be used for growing. It's a start. We have 24 Ha of ancient woodland adjoining the Food Project site and have some residents interested in developing woodland crafts as well.

Sharon -

Los Angeles is water deprived and we have to do a lot better job of managing the small amount of rain we get here and heal our relationship with our rivers and ground water - these are the problems that make LA a difficult environment to have a durable future as a city.

So it seemed like a small thing, but it also showed a revolution in local thinking when forty some odd people gathered outside on a very cold (OK, for LA) day and committed to create the Seed Library Of Los Angeles (SLOLA).

I admit, my brilliant girlfriend, who also introduced me to you and your blog and books, put the bug in my ear and pestered me to do something for about six months before it became obvious to me that someone had to do something - starting a seed library is not really something I have much experience with.

But now it's launched. SLOLA could be one more strand of the threads that will hold people together in the future that I feel is becoming more bleak with each passing Congressional bill. It is only a small step, but then, all big events are nothing more than many series of small steps all strung together.

I am the Gardenmaster for The Learning Garden at Venice High School. Our one acre garden is home to Westside Produce Exchange where people share their excess harvest with one another and also to Our Time Bank, a local time exchange economy that trades hours instead of dollars. We have yoga, Tai Chi and Chigong classes as well as gardening classes and informal canning/pickling gatherings. We share plants with local schools who are trying to get a school garden as well as with any other non-profit that wants a garden. We share everything we can to fulfill a vision of gardens all over the city and seek to support groups that work to change anything in Los Angeles that will make this city a more livable and sustainable place in the immediate future and beyond.



Farmington, Waterflow, Fruitland, Upper Fruitland, Bloomfield... the very names of the communities roundabouts bespeak their agricultural heritage. But that was before the gas & oil boom of the 1950s, that turned the region into the butt ugly energy sacrifice zone it's become. Some community poohbahs have recognized that the hydrocarbons are rapidly being depleted and wish to brainstorm ways of potentially diversifying the economy as the energy industry inevitably goes into terminal decline. I've been asked to participate in the discussion from the standpoint of how agriculture can contribute to this diversification. Personally, I feel no commitment to this hell hole of a community, besides the fact that I live here, but so long as I get paid for participating, I will.

My property, for instance, and the whole immediate area of the neighborhood, was once an extensive irrigated pear orchard, as attested by the feral pear thickets that proliferate to this day. Our ditch has legal right to 41 cfs of water off the Rio de los Animas, which was the amount actually used in the heyday of the orchards. Today, only about 9 - 10 cfs is used. Under Western "use it or loose it" water law, I'd like to see the extent of orchard or cropland irrigated from the ditch expanded back to more like it once was. This can't fully happen as much of the former orchard & cropland area has been turned into trailer parks & parking lots for retail outlets. But Russian olive & Siberian elm can be cleared & fruit trees replanted, headgates can be repaired & people can garden, and fruit & produce can be marketed locally. I'll contribute what I can to see this happen. I feel like a minority of one on this issue but I would love to see the gas & oil industry around here die. This might actually be a nice place if the economy contracted, people moved away and those who stuck around got back to their agricultural roots.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 06 Dec 2010 #permalink

I'm leaving.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 06 Dec 2010 #permalink

I joined an excellent organization through the city of Chicago called the Chicago Conservation Corps. The city trains a couple dozen volunteers twice a year on all sorts of issues. We learn about waste reduction, the city's recycling program, water management, how to hand out city vouchers for rain barrels or home weatherization kits or home composting kits (worm bins). Then we all spread out into our communities and get these things happening! For example, I am handing out City of Chicago weatherization kits to my neighbors. I am having an open house on a sunday where people can drop by and check out how I've weatherized, and then pick up a kit themselves.

Lawrence is a small city in the humid, bumpy northeast corner of Kansas. There is is plenty of ag land nearby - I have a 40 acre field that is just 7 miles from my house in town. So it is not hopeless to imagine feeding ourselves into the future. There are a few community gardens in town, that are fully subscribed. A couple of the local schools are growing food in gardens on campus and providing it to the school cafeteria as well as a weekly farmer's market. We have a pretty good urban chicken ordinance, and I keep asking why it is that people are allowed to have dogs but not goats. I have been involved with the Lawrence Fruit Tree Project,

which is still fledging, but we have planted a few trees on public land, and have plans for more. Mostly what what my friends and I do is plant gardens in our yards and walk around like that is perfectly normal.

By Eric in Kansas (not verified) on 06 Dec 2010 #permalink

Here in the NE sector of Seattle, we're planning a community skills fair in early February. So far we have several feltmakers, canners, knitters, gardeners, tool sharpeners and solar oven builders offering to teach people in our neighborhood how to make stuff, grow stuff, cook stuff and fix stuff. We'll end the day with a community potluck and square dance. Sound fun?

By Susan Gregory (not verified) on 06 Dec 2010 #permalink

Here in my small city in central Minnesota, there are many wonderfully sustainable things happening. Firstly, we have it good in terms of geography. We are small, one hour from Minneapolis/St. Paul, and still surrounded by farmland. The housing crash has stopped development outside the city, and for that I'm grateful. It was only recently starting to creep too far out, so we have plenty of agriculture--both small and large but mostly still smallish--around us.

A local university professor has been instrumental in getting a network of community gardens going in our city. The university itself has a huge garden, which she started, which now takes on a life of its own. It is mostly community members, not university folks, that care for it. My husband and I have taken some part in it. That garden is about to double in size as the university has given it more land. And it was already very large. And a senior student is just tonight giving a presentation for his senior project, that is redesigning the garden, adding for the new space, adding in a water collection system, a chicken coop, and more. It is very exciting! Local churches have also begun community gardens lately, many of them feeding the food shelves.

Each year for the past 5 I have organized a neighborhood-wide garage sale. Last year, 5% of the homes in our 700-household neighborhood held a garage sale! On the same day, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., in August right before school starts at the nearby University. It may not sound like much, but to me garage sales are a sustainable community event. We draw crowds of people into our urban neighborhood, so we see it as promotion of our walkable, sustainable, friendly place near the inner city. And garage sales are the ultimate in re-use where everybody benefits, both seller and buyer.

Those are just a couple of things I can think of. Life has changed here in the past few years, and not all for the worse. Way more people are gardening and talking about scaling down for the future. It's good.

In the Greater Boston Area, there is a surprising amount going on. I do not currently do any community organizing, but my next apartment will have garden and pantry and I will take it from there.

There are a lot of bike organizations near me, and I have quite a few friends in the bike community (there is a bike gang in Davis Square -- Skull -- think boomboxes, modded bikes and christmas lights), so there's a lot of community action regarding transit and more eco-friendly ways to travel.

My group of friends will be starting community dinners to try and save some cash, which will be fun, but the most community-minded thing that I can think of. :-P

@ D. C. Sessions,

"I'm leaving."

I am confused. Are you saying that your community will be better prepared after you leave, or that you are abandoning your community and looking to improve your own chances somewhere else?

Just one thought I would like to share. When looking for a home when I moved here, one realtor commented that a prospect had asked, "Are the neighbors friendly here?" - to which the realtor replied "How were they were you last lived?" It seems that much of the time we see the new environment through a reflection of the last one.

"I'm leaving." seems to equate leaving a bad situation with finding a better one. That can happen, else battered women's shelters would be an abysmal and deject failure in every case, instead of proving useful in many cases.

"I am moving to X", on the other hand, would indicate you know which is the fire, and which the frying pan, before you choose to jump.

Besides, moving consumes a lot of money and other resources. When you deliberately and skillfully choose a better destination, and have the resources to establish an equivalent position there, your move can be a very good option.

As I said, just a thought.

arama motorlarında en iyi yerlere gelmek istiyoruz Bizde en iyi yerlere gelmek icin bir caba icindeyiz tabiki bunun zorlugunu yasamaktayiz ama bir yola ciktik ve bunu basarmaya çalismaktayiz bakalim nasıl olucak istedigimize ulasabilcekmiyiz inanin boyle cok zor oluyor ama mecburuz napalim evet hayirlisi .
Herkesin birbirine yardim etmesi gerek aslinda kendilerini dusunmemeli herkes dostlarinida dusunmelidirler bence tabi bu benim fikrim