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Pardes Yehuda: Vertical Farming--are 'living buildings' the future of the urban landscape?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vertical Farming--are 'living buildings' the future of the urban landscape?

What if our skylines were vibrant, lush living eco-systems? What if local produce meant a few blocks, rather than dozens of miles? What if our farms were protected from element, wind contamination and infestation, thereby securing absolutely chemical-free food? What if the urban landscape was transformed from twisted and riveted metals and steel into a green paradise?

If Dickson Despommier of Columbia University can get his Vertical Farm Project off the ground(literally) this vision might become reality. Click below to find out more about vertical farming and some tips on what you can do to make a difference.

According to a write-up recently published in the New York Times, the idea for vertical farming was created in 1999 and was born in discussion with his graduate students studying medical ecology. The facts from the Vertical Farm Project website are staggering:

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth's population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster?

For this concept to work, it would take a rethinking of the entire concept of the urban arena. It seems that Mr. Despommier's work has been noticed by important folks in important places, most notably Scott M. Stringer, the president of the borough of Manhattan. He likes the Vertical Farm Project so much, he has embraced it and wants to put it into action. According to the New York Times report,
"Mr. Stringer’s office is “sketching out what it would take to pilot a vertical farm,” and plans to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor’s office within the next couple of months, he said."

The article also references Jerry Kaufman, an urban planner at the University of Wisconsin, who queries, "Why does it have to be 30 stories? Why can't it be six stories?" And this question serves a great point. We need not wait for the city planners of Manhattan to build a multi-million dollar 'living building;' we can bring our own buildings to life by some simple home gardening. Climate change can be combated at home without buying a hybrid car or purchasing wind power. Start by taking some simple steps at home, like these listed below, toward a carbon-neutral climate.
  • Use window boxes to grow small herbs and leaves instead of decorative flowers; hearty greens and lettuces can be gorgeous in addition to delicious!
  • Lawns do not have to be grass; flowers and vegetables can make beautiful and useful additions that help the ecosystem, reduce toxins, purify the air and provide something useful and beautiful
  • Flat roofs and patio/decks can be used to grow food in large pots
  • Sandboxes, barrels and wagons make great vegetable, herb and flower beds; just fill with dirt and plant!
  • Backyard and kitchen composting are helpful for the environment, useful for planting and gardening and even fun and educational for kids!

Keep posted here for more information about urban gardening, including an exclusive interview with a professional urban gardener with plenty of tips for your own gardening. In the mean time, it is important to acknowledge the important work that the Vertical Farm Project is doing. Thank you, Dickson Despommier, for making our cities more sustainable and more livable.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

I really want to see this project succeed because I think this is could be a solution to are rising food shortage…I am trying to get the first working tower built: