The Conundrum of local food and/vs. sustainability

Lisa Feldstein's picture

I spotted this poster at a weekend cheesemaking class a couple of weeks ago. Later that week, a policymaker from Los Angeles with expertise in food, water, and sustainability talked about the food advocates' desire to plant food along medians in that city. The difficulty, from the policymaker's perspective, was that officials had spent years transitioning those medians to drought-tolerant native plantings. Most plants grown for food require significant amounts of water - water that Los Angeles doesn't have. How does one identify the point at which local isn't sustainable? Is it a bright line? Or is it a very long, slippery slope?

Grow your own food

Lisa Feldstein seeks to use land use as a tool for social and economic justice.




Your LA policy maker is more likely to respond to the objectives of "the living machine" designs...

Water is all business now (some of it is criminal) and this guy knows about it --

Food on medians

What sort of food do they plan to grow on medians? I suppose one could plant fruit trees and such....but would it be necessary to shut down part of the street to harvest the fruit?

Seems like an interesting idea, but not particularly practical. Community gardens make a lot more sense.

I enjoy puns

I don't think you wanted to use the word conundrum in you title. The issue that you present is not confusing and difficult nor is it a question asked for amusement (typically one with a pun in its answer).

Too many planners use this word word incorrectly. -- I'm sure I sound like a jerk, but the misuse of this word in planning seems to be standard practice.

Lisa Feldstein's picture

Naulston, I see your point,

Naulston, I see your point, but I disagree. Questions around local and sustainable are accepted as straightforward, but they are not. On the one hand, benefits of locally-grown foods include opportunities for the recreation of gardening, and for community-building and cultural preservation, the health benefits of physical activity, increased produce consumption and improved air quality (reduced trucking and increased amount of plant life). On the other hand, water scarcity in the west is a very real and difficult problem, one which can be addressed, in part, by reducing water demands for horticultural and agricultural uses. These are competing goods, with strong evidence and advocacy on both sides - in fact, many of the same people argue both simultaneously. Those who are attempting to sort out the policy ramifications are finding this to be confusing and difficult - the definition of a conundrum.

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