Gregg Kettles's blog
Greening our cities requires action on a whole number of fronts. Transportation and energy figure prominently in the equation. Getting people out of single-occupancy cars and into alternate modes of transportation, including bicycling and public transportation is one step. Building smart so as to minimize the amount of energy consumed in building, heating, and cooling buildings, and getting to and from them (think proximity to public transportation nodes) is another. But there are other fronts, too. One of them is food.
Food systems are as much a part of greening our cities as transportation and energy systems. What we eat and where we buy it has significant impacts on the environment and, of course, on human health. More calls have been made to bring the farm back to the city. Locally grown produce requires less energy to transport the ultimate consumer. It also tastes better, encouraging people to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. This of course ties back to health care. People who eat right require less medical care, and this savings inures to their benefit and those who insure them. Work on health care reform should include work on what we eat.
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Mon, 07/20/2009 - 6:31pm.
This afternoon I met Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore's Dilemma. His writing about local food systems has already inspired me. The movement toward buying locally grown food ties in well with my own advocacy for open air markets, including farmer's markets and street vendors. I went to an event sponsored by Dosa, Inc. in Los Angeles where I heard Pollan was going to speak, expecting to hear more about local food. I learned so much more than that.
Pollan didn't speak about food per se, but rather about collaboration. He engaged in a converstation with his wife, Judith Belzor, an artist, and Christina Kim, a fashion designer. The theme of the talk was collaboration. Pollan and Belzor shared space while each worked on their own project, and Pollan, an editor by training, would "edit" the artwork being created by Belzor, suggesting an addition here and a deletion there. Kim and Belzor collabored on an art installation, with Kim supplying the space-- an open and airy top floor of an old Broadway office building-- and Belzor supplying the art that fit so well with the space.
"There is a myth that the artist creates in solitude," said Pollan. Artists are part of an artistic tradition and context, and so collaboration is an essential part of the creative process.
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Fri, 05/29/2009 - 8:24pm.
Recently the city council of Cincinnati, Ohio approved the Cincinnati Farms Motion today, advancing an initiative to lease-out underutilized city-owned parcels for agriculture. See http://www.parkandvine.com/?cat=80 This is of course encouraging news for fans of urban agriculture. Empty lots will become productive, and neighbors will have a place to come together and forge and strengthen a community.
But there are perils and pitfalls that face every new venture, and leasing government land to urban farmers is no exception. This is one lesson to be drawn from "The Garden," a film nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary. http://www.blackvalleyfilms.com/ Directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, The Garden tells the story of a 14 acre community garden in Los Angeles, California. In the wake of the 1992 riots, the city let a group, which came to be known as South Central Farmers, farm on a vacant parcel of city-owned land. The farmers put their hearts and souls into the land, turning it into an oasis in a city known more for freeway driving than food growing. But after a decade of farming, the city told the farmers that they would have to leave.
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Thu, 02/19/2009 - 6:32pm.
Over the past few weeks the US Border Patrol and Riverside County California police have been the target of allegations that they engaged in racial profiling and set a quota for immigration arrests. Among other places, law enforcement officers swept an informal day labor site, making several arrests. These actions, and many of the news stories reporting them, help reinforce the stereotype that day laborer is an immigration issue, and nothing more.
To call it a stereotype is of course to suggest that it is not completely true. There's no denying that many day laborers lack documentation to remain in the US legally. But a comprehensive survey of thousands of day laborers across the US revealed that fully 1/4 of them are legal residents. Day labor is not just about immigration policy, it also about labor, land use, and simple economics.
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Sat, 02/07/2009 - 5:54pm.
Los Angeles, California has long suffered from an image that it is car-friendly, pedestrian hostile place. There is plenty of irony in this. The balmy climate draws one outside, but there's no place you'd want to walk to once you get there. Or so the story goes. Downtown redevelopment during the car crazy 1950s and 60s encouraged this view. Streets were widened to speed automobile traffic, while sidewalks remained narrow afterthoughts.
This week the Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved new design standards for downtown. Instead of requiring developers to widen streets, they'll be asked to widen sidewalks. According to the Downtown Design Guide published by the Urban Design Studio of the L.A. Department of City Planning, the extra sidewalk space is intended for outdoor dining and "commercial activity." http://urbandesignla.com/downtown_guidelines.htmp. graphic at 16.
Submitted by Gregg Kettles on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 11:51pm.