During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic life changed for many of us. Businesses closed, inventories of supplies and products dropped, many items became in heightened demand, and concerns and questions arose. Day to day life, schedules, and habits suddenly transformed. People started focusing on stocking up on canned goods and finding other ways to be self-sustainable. Although this time is tragic, stressful, chaotic…some good is coming from these troubled times: people are reconnecting with the environment.
A plethora of live Instagram feeds of people sharing ideas relating to “How to be wise in their backyard,” and “Learn how to grow crops for an emergency food source” accompanied the first week of food shortages. People were hustling to stock up on necessities, plant a garden, and study other techniques to guarantee survival in their transformed environment.
Most any experience we encounter in life offers us an opportunity to learn and grow. After the flood of panic and changes brought about with this pandemic, we should maintain enthusiasm to look closely at the environments in which we live and look towards other techniques for food sustainability in our backyards and/or vacant lots around us. Permaculture (a component to Regenerative Agriculture), is a lifestyle formed around base of ecological design schema that offers key perspectives and tools to fight against climate change. Some top aspects of permaculture are to observe and interact with the land, obtain a yield, value renewable resource, and integrate rather than segregate. Permaculture has the ability to give urban dwellers sustainability + community. This opens the doors for the community to become caring gardeners – to start caring for the pollinators, maintaining the iconic plants and strong ecosystems of the region.
Permaculture has the ability to design for a restored landscape and will help towards our climate change crisis. So, join a local community garden. ‘Hilton Harvest’ is a community garden in Perth (temporarily closed due to COVID-19) who is still promoting online seed and nursery sales for ‘your’ home garden. They have multiple events that will be back and running in the near future – strengthening community and the connection to the land. In a community garden/family backyard we gain purpose together, and share lovely moments growing together in the act of stewardship for the land.
Unfortunately, in order for a city like Perth or larger to be completely covered it will take a larger organisation of food production. The need for us to be confident in food production is now. By 2030, the United Nations predicts more than 2/3 thirds of the population will be living in cities – with urban population nearly doubling. Warning the world that of food shortages to come with increasing Climate Emergency changes putting “dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.” Now, it takes on average 1 acre (.4 hectare) to feed a person per year.
Other forms of regenerative agriculture for an urban setting with significant production is vertical farming. ‘Aerofarms’ is a very successful vertical farm, being the largest vertical farm located in Newark, New Jersey that specialises specifically in indoor growing systems. With artificial lighting (LED), in a 69,000 ft2, this warehouse produces 2 million pounds of lettuce per year without the need for soil or light. Providing enough to sustain a city population. Vertical farming would be very beneficial for Perth. would only need one of these facilities to feed our population of about 2 million. Singapore is also a supporter of vertical farming to help their food growth and sustainability.
It is time to prepare for the ultimate food shortage if Climate Change goes un-addressed. The IPCC reports food insecurity because of climate change, will bring about many negative effects leading to the point of global malnutrition. COVID-19 has changed the way people see their lifestyle. It is best to grasp this and start to prepare and sustain ourselves through the love of the land. For residents, let’s build communities and rely on self-sustainability through our backyards and community gardens. For Urban Designers/Landscape Architects, we must design for change. It is our time, as planners, to analyse current ‘happenings’ and build for future food security.