Swine Flu and the Prospects for Urban Agriculture

The present threat of a global pandemic reveals the fundamental problem with visions for 'sustainable cities' relying on urban agriculture: there are important medical reasons for separating livestock operations from people.
May 1, 2009, 2pm PDT | Michael Dudley
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"It's interesting to note...that swine flu, unsurprisingly, comes from 'close contact with pigs' – that is, spatial proximity between humans and their livestock. Swine flu, we could say, is a spatial problem – an epiphenomenon of landscape.

[T]here were very real epidemiological reasons for taking agriculture out of the city; finding a new place for urban farms will thus not only require very intense new spatial codes, it will demand constant vigilance in researching and developing inoculations. Few people want to see burning piles of livestock in Times Square or Griffith Park, let alone piles of human corpses infected with H5N1.

Avian flu, foot-and-mouth disease, swine flu: if these are spatially activated, so to speak, and spread through certain unrecommended proximities between humans and animals, then urban design's medical undergirding is again revealed. The space around you is no mere stylization; it is a strategy of containment. The modern city [is not just] a place to live – but also a functioning medical instrument."

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Published on Friday, May 1, 2009 in BLDG BLOG
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