Farming in the City: Make environmental legislation flexible!

Cities are blanketed by a mesh of rules. Some of them are well known and clearly signaled (think traffic lights). Others only become visible when you start asking questions about your city.  "Why aren't there trees on my street?" "How come there aren't any corner stores in my neighbourhood?"

On narrower streets in the Mile-End neighbourhood of Montreal (where I live) when old trees die they aren't replaced. Seems strange not to replant, until you find out one thing: to plant a street tree you need sidewalks that are a minimum of two meters wide. Now you know.

In Copenhagen other kinds of regulations are slowing the spread of urban agriculture. Afton Halloran, a researcher that is part of the SCI research network that I direct, has just come out with an interesting analysis of the situation. Writing in Politiken (Denmark’s largest newspaper) she and two colleagues from the University of Copenhagen argue that overly cautious environmental regulations are sacrificing the many benefits of urban agriculture. I've posted an excerpt after the jump and you can read the full translation of the article over on the SCI blog.

Copenhagen’s urban gardens and urban agriculture projects have achieved a steady increase in popularity in both the media and at the grassroots level. The projects are situated in places like Prags Boulevard, Otto Krabbe’s Square and in ├śrestad. There is a great interest in the way that these projects create social relationships, build capacity and strengthen communities in urban areas. They also help to create green spaces in the city and provide children and adults with experiencing the origin of their food from a close range.

But, when we compare with other places in Europe and North America it is clear that there is untapped potential to grow vegetables in a large scale within Copenhagen. [read more]


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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

You can expect occasional updates, but not with the same frequency as in the past.

You can also find my writing on urban redesign and sustainability in ReNew Canada, The Mark, Sustainable Cities Canada, WorldChanging, and other more specialized academic publications.

Info on my consulting work, c.v. and current research focus is all here.