Monday, May 10, 2010

the world is also what we eat"

Carolyn Steel: How food shapes our cities

In this very interesting video, Carolyn Steel discusses how cities are shaped by food, how the growth of cities and new technologies (such as trains and cars) led to the separation of its inhabitants from the cycle of nature. In this short 15 min. talk she gives us an historical overview of the relationships among cities, people, and food, including animals. It is no wonder that the average urbanite has no sense of the natural world today; Carolyn's explanation provides us one understanding of how that happened. On the TED site, you can read the transcript of her talk; below is an excerpt:

" you can see from these maps of London, in the 90 years after the trains came, it goes from being a little blob that was quite easy to feed, by animals coming in on foot, and so on, to a large splurge, that would be very very difficult to feed with anybody on foot, either animals or people. And of course that was just the beginning. After the trains came cars. And really this marks the end of this process. It's the final emancipation of the city from any apparent relationship with nature at all.

And this is the kind of city that's devoid of smell, devoid of mess, certainly devoid of people. Because nobody would have dreamed of walking in such a landscape. In fact, what they did to get food was they got in their cars, drove to a box somewhere on the outskirts, came back with a week's worth of shopping, and wondered what on earth to do with it. And this really is the moment when our relationship, both with food and cities, changes completely.

Here we have food -- that used to be the center, the social core of the city -- at the periphery. It used to be a social event, buying and selling food. Now it's anonymous. We used to cook; now we just add water, or a little bit of an egg if you're making a cake or something. We don't smell food to see if it's okay to eat. We just read the back of a label on a packet. And we don't value food. We don't trust it. So instead of trusting it we fear it. And instead of valuing it we throw it away.

One of the great ironies of modern food systems is that they've made the very thing they promised to make easier much harder.


Merche Pallarés said...

Today I finally had time to see the video!! Wonderful and very, very interesting and SO true... Here in Ibiza, a lot of people are parma- (or is it "perma"?)farming which is great because it doesn't need much space and one can grow lots of veggies. Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

i do not know what parma or perma is. i will have to find out.

Ari said...

If every household had their own chicken yards, you don't have to go to supermarkets. When you are hungry you only take your axe and behead your chickens. They surely are more delicious than supermarket chickens.

northshorewoman said...


some people here are trying to get urban farming back by changing bylaws, so we could have our own chicken coops in our backyards!