Beauty for Ashes: Food Among The Ruins
This post is second in a new series I’m calling Beauty for Ashes. The first post, and a brief explanation of the series, is here.
Guernica, an online “magazine of art & politics,” has an interesting and hopeful piece up by Mark Dowie called Food Among The Ruins. Many of us know that Detroit has been experiencing economic decline for some time; what I did not realize until reading this article is that there is not a single produce-carrying grocery store chain within the city limits. Residents are so desperate for sources of protein that raccoon carcasses fetch $12 and folks are harvesting pheasant for dinner. But there is hope—Dowie proposes that much of the land within the city be turned back into farmland.
Contemporary Detroit gave new meaning to the word “wasteland.” It still stands as a monument to a form of land abuse that became endemic to industrial America—once-productive farmland, teeming with wildlife, was paved and poisoned for corporate imperatives. Now the city offers itself as an opportunity to restore some of its agrarian tradition, not fifty miles from downtown in the countryside where most of us believe that tradition was originally established, but a short bicycle ride away. American cities once grew much of their food within walking distance of most of their residents. In fact, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, most early American cities, Detroit included, looked more like the English countryside, with a cluster of small villages interspersed with green open space. Eventually, farmers of the open space sold their land to developers and either retired or moved their farms out of cities, which were cut into grids and plastered with factories, shopping malls, and identical row houses.
Detroit now offers America a perfect place to redefine urban economics, moving away from the totally paved, heavy-industrial factory-town model to a resilient, holistic, economically diverse, self-sufficient, intensely green, rural/urban community—and in doing so become the first modern American city where agriculture, while perhaps not the largest, is the most vital industry.
Allow me to share quick thought on the intersection here with Fat Liberation. Health At Every Size (HAES) is a philosophy that says that all folks, regardless of size, should have access to comprehensive, responsible health care and education; a variety of nutritious foods at affordable prices; and opportunities to move in pleasurable ways. It is thus aimed at health care professionals and political activists, and isn’t so much a “diet plan” for individual fat folks, though we can incorporate some of the principles into our lives by choosing to focus on our health instead of our weight in our daily food and movement choices. The folks of Detroit—a majority of whom are subject to class, race, and/or fat oppression—have been experiencing less and less access to a variety of nutritious and healthful foods. If Dowie’s vision can be achieved, it would be more than an economic gain for the city; it would be a step of liberation for the oppressed folks of Detroit.
Anyway, now go read the whole thing!