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That's it then. I'm starting a cattle ranch in my back yard tomorrow!

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | June 3, 2008 11:37 AM

The complete failure of Marx to grasp agricultural production coupled with his erroneous assumption that urban intellectuals know what's best in all matters led to the greatest state-overseen famines in history when acolytes in both the U.S.S.R. and China embraced his theories. Lysenkoism is a pretty good example of how urban intellectuals are often not as smart as they think they are when it comes around to figuring out how to grow potatoes. And it's worth noting that people can live longer without philosophy than they can without food.

I think urban farming is a mostly good idea though. As long as people are diligent about screening for toxins. Just remember that urban environments usually have pretty high concentrations of airborne pollutants.

Posted by flamingbanjo | June 3, 2008 11:42 AM

@2 also while the pre-existing environment may not be good for growing, farmers put shit (in some cases, actual shit) on their crops that returns to the environment, making it worse.

Posted by Bon Scott | June 3, 2008 11:46 AM

Politics is in the city, idiocy is outside of the city.

No, idiocy is wherever the politicians are.

Posted by jmr | June 3, 2008 11:48 AM


There's also a flip side to that with intellectuals assuming that handing the means of production to the people is always the right course of action. Knowing how to grow potatoes doesn't equal knowing how to run a farm.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 3, 2008 11:55 AM

Wow, if you remove the arrogant disdain and smug elitism, I agree with Charles. Wow.

Other orphaned spaces: required parking spaces in new apts. and condos when more of us don't want them and should have a choice.

Requiredd huge mega lots for stores and retail inside urban areas. Main street is prohibited.

The three extra seats inside the autos of commuters -- it is illegal for them to give neighbors a ride to work and charge them a few bucks for it.

The spaces on our strreets that could be filled with ground-up jitney vans -- people who get a group of 4-8 and drive them to work for money -- that is illegal, too.

And ;et
s not forget all those stupid, stupid center turn lanes which are unnecessary and could be used for traffic. They even have them for 1/2 a mile where there is no where to turn to! If you don't want them for cars, still put them into use for cars and then turn the outer edge car lane over to bikes or buses.

Requiring this largely fallow asphalt everywhere (most megalots are empty most hours) is pure waste.

Martians visiting us would conclude it reflects worship of the automobile/asphalt God. Marxist Martians would find this exhibition value reflective of the totemic worship superstructure (defining exhibition value) that reflects the oil companies' control of the means of production (which includes land use).

Posted by PC | June 3, 2008 11:56 AM

One of the wierdest parts of a Seattle-based movie at SIFF, Butterfly Dreaming, was the chickens they kept in the coop in the back yard.

Stories like this make me miss the 100 foot by 100 foot garden that I had behind my previous Seattle house in Ballard.

But it's a lot of work to grow that much food in the city, even if people seek out pea patches to do them in.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 3, 2008 12:01 PM

flamingbanjo @2,

So it's not even remotely possible that the state-overseen famines you cite were the idea, and the fault, of Stalin and Mao, respectively--not Marx's at all? And that Marx's sadly misinterpreted ideas about the virtues of the urban have yet to be reclaimed from the likes of Stalin and Mao, much less fulfilled in the form of a food-production-driven state that truly works for most, if not all, concerned?

The crucial difference between the agrarian "revolutions" of Stalin and Mao and what seems to be emerging in Seattle these days? Top-down agrarianism vs. grassroots agrarianism, maybe?

Posted by Jeff Stevens | June 3, 2008 12:03 PM


If you remove the many layers of self-eating-snake-like hipster irony, there's no substance at all in your comment. Wow.

Anyway, how about pushing the City of Seattle to change its zoning laws to allow for entire city blocks to be converted to intentional communities, centered around plots of productive urban farmland, the better to create to "archipelago" cited in the P-I article?

How about making the possibility of creating such an "archipelago" in Seattle a major campiagn issue in next year's Seattle muni elections?

Posted by Jeff Stevens | June 3, 2008 12:19 PM

Urban farming has redeeming qualities -- mostly in terms of aesthetics and the joy it brings to the gardener/farmer.

But anyone who thinks that the rezone in question is going to have a major impact on the supply of food is kidding themselves. A city cannot be completely self-supporting in terms of its food supply -- the space just isn't there.

Posted by joykiller | June 3, 2008 12:35 PM

Wow, another commentary on how people in the country are stupid. Yes, we country folk who were raised in the FDR New Deal tradition sure are morons. If I would have known how stupid my grandpa and grandma who survived the great depression were, I would have told them that all their hard work and sacrifice were a huge waste of time.

If country folk are so stupid, Charles, maybe you yourself could grow the food needed to feed the world. But maybe you don't want to because you think that blonde farmers would try to run you over with their tractors because they would dislike a "neighbor" who was "different" And no, I don't feel like letting it go.

Posted by Charles_Mudede_Is_A_Latent_Racist | June 3, 2008 12:53 PM

Virtually every idea that Aristotle ever had is wrong.

Posted by Fnarf | June 3, 2008 1:02 PM

I just made breakfast on Sunday with potatoes I grew in my backyard right in Ballard! True story!

Posted by povertyrich | June 3, 2008 1:07 PM

the idea that the amount of food raised by individuals living in the city is enough to sustain a portion greater than the individual is nuts

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 3, 2008 1:32 PM

@14, of course we can not fully break with the country. however, we can reduce the influence of its idiotic power by bringing more food production in and close to the city.

Posted by charles mudede | June 3, 2008 2:10 PM

#8: I am all in favor of grassroots agrarianism. I think the Marxist mistake is in thinking that a farm is exactly like a factory and that collectivization automatically improves upon systems that evolved in their environments over hundreds of generations, where the land was passed down from father to son and farmers had a long-term stake in the health of the soil.

And yes, I do think that both Stalin and Mao used famines as a political tool. But to me that doesn't let Marx off the hook for being so thoroughly clueless and, frankly, classist about a subject of which he displayed a remarkably poor grasp. Of course, his theories were mainly developed in the context of the European societies around him and proved in many ways to be a poor fit to the very different circumstances of Russia and China.

My larger point being, naturally, that it's straight up hubris for scholars (and would-be scholars) who know nothing about growing food to presume to make sweeping suggestions on how it might be improved. And that the one-theory-that-explains-everything mania that seizes so many Deep Thinkers often collides with reality in very unfortunate ways.

Posted by flamingbanjo | June 3, 2008 2:12 PM

charles, you could also try to break the influence it has by advocating less wealth redistribution at the government level period. a marxist advocation against government sponsored wealth redistribution though? not in this lifetime.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 3, 2008 2:21 PM

That greened building is very Yuuzhon Vong.

Posted by Simac | June 3, 2008 2:59 PM

Agricultural food production requires cultivation of large, open spaces (called "farms"). Urban regions are, by definition, bereft of large, open spaces, having opted instead to fill them with residential or commercial structures (called "buildings").

It seems like there might be some logistical problems in trying to cultivate large open spaces in areas defined by their lack of large open spaces.

Posted by Stinky | June 3, 2008 5:50 PM

Dear Stinky,
google 'vertical farm'. You suffer from a failure of imagination.

Dear Charles,
thanks for the emetic prose.

Posted by OMG | June 4, 2008 3:12 AM

Uh... so we should all be for the chance to make like rural people and get closer to the earth and the essential processes of creating biomass. I can get on board with that, I love urban farming.

But we should do that in order to stamp out "rural idiocy"?

Christ Charles, your prose and thought processes constitute their own dreadfully elitist and condenscending arguments AGAINST the things you want. I'm beginning to think that you are using some kind of reverse psychology in order to make people hate the things you claim to be supporting in your posts.

Posted by k | June 4, 2008 9:07 AM

I have read of the vertical farm. It suffers from a failure of empirical support.

Posted by stinky | June 4, 2008 1:46 PM

Well, get some empire to support it then.

The Babylonian empire totally supported it:

At any rate, small scale agriculture is highly productive.

@21: Word!

Posted by OMG | June 6, 2008 12:00 AM

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