People are always saying the tragedy of climate change is that those who contribute the least to the problem — the poor — are punished the hardest. There is truth to this; third-world, small-scale farmers whose fields experience climate changes too strong to adapt to don’t have industrial agriculture’s luxury of abundant surplus to cover their margin of error, or mass pesticide correction (fossil fuel use) to control the infestation of new pests that thrive in the new weather, or abundant water supplies that can be taken from the nearest neighborhood in short periods of dryness.
But with just one of these advantages taken away — through peak oil, erosion, severe drought or the like — the playing field will be evened. Those who educate themselves to adapt to a lifestyle of lower-energy inputs for higher gains are those who will thrive. Backyard farmers will benefit, while Food For Less and Wal-Mart devotees may be scratching their heads and rubbing their bellies.
Last week, I drove into West Oakland, California to meet with Patrick O’Connor of City Slicker Farms, an organization that works mainly with low-income families to increase “food self-sufficiency in West Oakland by creating organic, sustainable, high-yield urban farms and back-yard gardens.” CitySlickerFarms.org With curly hair, humility and heart, Patrick told me the vision he sees unfolding. Lower-income families taking responsibility for their own food. Unlike other programs he’s seen, he notes that the tendency of residents to maintain their gardens is high. Of course, all the cliches of the confidence building, community bonding, consciousness breakthroughs and other cb’s ring true.
They’re not doing this because their clients can’t afford food — they’re doing this because everyone should be eating local and learning to garden on some scale; their clients just happen to be unable to afford it.
We need more City Slicker Farms. Start slicking, or help someone else slick by getting in their yard and showing them this here video.
- Ben Zolno