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Tuesday
Jun242014

« Urbanization—Another Word for MultiEarth Cities and Farms »

Last night, a group calling themselves “Friends in Exile,” completed their discussions about my book, Blinded by Progress. What a treat for me to participate in several of the conversations. Each time I learned more about the themes I wrote about. The last meeting was no exception when much of the conversation turned to the skeptical view I express in the book about cities—or, more accurately, the trend of urbanization in the MultiEarth worldview and economy.

It wasn’t until about 4 a.m. this morning, as my waking mind turned to the conversation of the night before, that I began to assimilate some of what was said and integrate it with my own thoughts about the relation between rural life and city life past and present. In a mere three pages in my book (pages 152-155), I speak of how modern urbanization, an intensely industrialized process, implements MultiEarth values and views instead of seeking a rural-city link that would better express the natural communal inclinations of our species. Those inclinations, when expressed, follow the balance of life found in health bioregions and fit with a OneEarth synergy of cities and rural life.

Healthy interaction between the purposes of farms and cities has been a tension throughout civilization. New tools (early industrialization) of the Neolithic Revolution starting in 5000 BCE, tipped in favor of larger cities and farms. Result? More people move to cities. Leaping ahead to the Industrial Revolution of the 1700s onward, the trend continued and accelerated to where now more than half of all humans live in cities for the first time in the history of our species. The fabric of rural culture has been unraveled and reknit many times. The infrastructures of mega-cities are now clearly overloaded with no promise of jobs, housing, health, or wellbeing for vast numbers. 

Policies have driven urbanization for millions of rural people; it’s not that all of them wanted to live in cities. Many farmers and small townsfolk have long moved to cities dispondent and under protest. They protest a coercion created by farm program incentives for bigness. Subsidies are selectively distributed to benefit large scale operations more than small. Many financial products were not designed to sustain small town economies and businesses, but favored urbanization.

To take only the example of the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, export rules have so favored U.S. corporatized farming that over a million small farmers in Mexico were driven off the farm because they could not grow maize to compete with U.S. delivered corn. It destroyed the biodiversity of Mexican maize varieties and many Mexican farming households and villages. Mexican cities do not have jobs for these families and U.S. immigration laws meet them at the border with an increasingly militarized patrol.

What then is the relationship between urban and rural ways of living in the OneEarth paradigm? Nature herself is ever our teacher regarding doing things to a correct scale even in the largest of bioregions. Small farms today must find technologies of scale in a market wildly favoring super-big. The labor intensive smaller farm offers work that many are being drawn to as is shown by the proliferation of small farm centers, farmer training and intern programs, small farm programs in major universities, and the New Ruralism movement. Similarly, the New Urbanism movement shows people wanting cities that are to scale with wellbeing, not scaled beyond the wealth, power, or stamina of most people.

Studying Nature, who knows how to live OneEarth practices, shows us what kinds of farms and cities work for us far better than markets, corporations, and money can show us. Nature distributes its wealth and power through radical diversification, not concentration. Nature’s community of life exhibits balance and abundance; hierarchies come into play for function, not control. 

Many people practice a solid, doable rural-urban connection, scaled to the wellbeing of people and other species. Meanwhile, urbanization via MultiEarth’s globalization model supersizes everything in cities and farms while radically disconnecting them from one another. Farmers and city-dwellers cannot finally live OneEarth ways struggling against the systemic odds of MultiEarth urbanization.

 

 

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