As a promoter of native plants for low-water landscaping, my experiences at the local farmers markets of late indicate that water conservation is not on most people’s minds these days. The recent water issue [Green Guide, April 17, City Weekly] is a timely reminder that water use has consequences beyond the individual. But it is distressing that planners predict the end of agricultural water use in Salt Lake Valley in a few generations as inevitable. Does this mean that the Buy Local movement promoting local food sovereignty is just an empty feel-good slogan rather than something real and substantial?
Rather than accept the end of local food production as inevitable, take a pointer from America’s perennial whipping boys, the late Hugo Chavez and the still very much alive Fidel Castro. Chavez authorized the local people—many of them poor—to take over the Caracas landscaping beds and plant food for themselves. Castro promoted local food production in vacant city lots and rooftops after the demise of the USSR, Cuba’s major source of imported food. Both actions resulted in better health and access to nutritional foods, at little cost to the state.
Why can’t cities along the Wasatch front adopt these ideas for their benefit as well? All it would take is a simple rewriting of extremely stupid landscaping restrictions and some creative architectural approaches for rooftop and vertical gardening, and every city could be a center for food production rather than a dead zone requiring constant importing of basic food needs.
As always, astute water conservation will be a big part of such a shift in landscaping. Another big piece of this would be a radical change in our relationship with the biosphere. In a nutshell, our ideology of continual growth needs replacing with new traditions that nurture and sustain the system that gives us life.
This little ball of water, air and rock—a mere 7,926 miles wide, not even a speck in the infinity of the universe—can only hold so much, and by all indications, it is now reaching its limit. Do we continue with mindless growth for the sake of mindless growth until we poison it all, or do we stop and reinvent a different reality? Do we even have a choice?
Clee P. Ames