This is the final chapter of our forthcoming book, Millennial City, with the conclusion to follow in this initial serial blog version of the book. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 2 of Chapter 10. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.
CHAPTER Ten – Part 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra
You’re living on the edge of a paradigm shift. Yes, you are even if you haven’t seen it that way but it’s already shaping your values and how you know yourself. In a way, it’s not a new phenomenon. Every generation has had to define themselves but your quest for meaning is alive and well. Your sense of responsibility is impressive. You’re volunteering through the Youth Volunteer Corps and making a big difference at the food bank one day and at the homeless shelter the next. And you do that because you believe deeply in the power of individuals and collective action.
Look out your window. What do you see? If you don’t see a new day dawning, you should because it is happening. The future needs you. This is important. Don’t miss this. Crisis means opportunity. Conflicts, disasters and culture shocks are all showing us what needs to be done differently in order to achieve a better future. Cities must focus not only on what went wrong in the past but also on what needs to be happen in the future. We must undergo a revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-orientedâ€ society to a “person-orientedâ€ society and you’re going to make that happen.
Of all of the people on our planet, it’s farmers who have always understood the importance of sustainability. You are the hope for our future and farming is something to believe in. The future is bright for American farmers. The thought of America becoming a land of many farmers once again is quite realistic and could bring back reverence for the land. Agriculture and gardening is back in the public consciousness.
Look again at what is happening in Detroit, where agriculture is considered to be a part of the future. That’s right farming right in the middle of the city that was once the industrial mecca of the age. Don’t think of farming with tractors. That’s old school. Think hydroponics; growing vegetables in water not soil), aeroponics air only growing systems and raising plants and fish in integrated systems. These new growing technologies compress space. They can grow very dense crops in much less space than it takes for tillage farming. No tractors and heavy, carbon producing gas guzzlers. How cool is that?
Think about it. It cost $30 Million to build 300-acre pods, a large scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise contained within city limits. This project could bring profits and jobs back to a city that was once on a slippery slope to a near death experience.
Farming might not be for you. But with the average farmer getting close to retirement, depleted resources, hunger and economic failure make the next generation of farming vital. It makes what’s happening in Detroit look pretty good: Locally available, affordable, healthy food.
What’s more, city farms could eventually occupy many of the 40 square miles of empty Detroit land laid bare through the aggressive and arguably necessary demolition of abandoned and dangerous buildings. You’re living on the edge of a paradigm shift. Detroit is embracing an alternative future. It’s supply and demand capitalism all over again. Even the American Institute of Architects studied the city’s options only to state, not that the city needs more high rises and highways but that Detroit is particularly well suited to become a pioneer in urban agriculture at a commercial scale.
The way we have lived and done development is considered to be unsustainable. This crisis is an opportunity. Local farming may or may not be an option for you but for sustainability it beats industrial agriculture, powered by oil, phosphorus, nitrogen and water. New farming maximizes the productivity of limited acreage with far less fertilizers and fuel. The new generation of farmers is leading the way to a healthier, stronger and more prosperous global food system. These farmers are leaders for a sustainable future. The choice is up to you.
[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]