Good News, 2009/Jan: Farming Cool Again, Urban-Agro saving Detroit?
Ah, yes, back in October I did point to a related Sci-Am article ("The Rise of Vertical Farms" in "Good news is news too...") that presented and discussed the concept of ultra-modern urban farming. And now Fortune has something more concrete to write about, regarding planned development in Detroit, of all places. It (Urban agriculture in general and the particular project in specific) actually seems to make lots of sense -- I did not know, for example, that there are no chain super markets in Detroit; and conversely there is lots of vacant land, mostly (formerly) residential (meaning no toxic industrial waste). There's no point in just repeating all potential benefits here: just suffice it to say that if done correctly, it could be a significant win-win-win situation, from environmental as well as quality-of-food aspect. That it would be done by someone rather unexpected is probably a good thing in itself: seems like lately people that are most unexpected to stand up and do something do just that (like mr. Boone with wind mills etc. etc.). Desire to leave positive legacy is a strong driving force, and continues to influence development in US: it's not just Ivy League colleges that get founded by elderly billionaries (and yet some numbskulls are trying to kill inheritance tax -- how freakishly stupid is that? -- but I digress). Saving the world does kind of top the list of things to do, if you want to leave such a legacy.
In addition to being interesting in and of itself, I find it fascinating how ideas enter mainstream gradually. I am pretty sure that Time and Newsweek pick this up in a month or two; then followed by broadcast news (.... sloooowly), and eventually daily print papers (once everyone is about aware of the thing). I guess this is one more thing to read one of these affordable high-quality magazine US market is (still) blessed with, like Scientific American, Fortune and National Geographic Magazine (and there are plenty more -- these just happen to be ones I have time to read): you get to learn about important ideas, concepts and developments slightly ahead of most others. And if you are even more time-constrainted than I am, well, you can just skim Time or Newsweek, and still be well ahead the curve.
Of course, it could also be that in a decade or two we may be reading articles like this one same way we do now for all those "by 2000, everyone has a personal rocket ship and eats food pills for lunch" future visions... we'll see. It's just that there are actual major problems with current agricultural state of the sart; and I am not thinking of left-wings "agri-biz is bad" angle, but rather more concrete problems of us running out of phospates for fertilization (it is a severely limited natural resource, turns out); loss/compaction of top soil (may need no/low-tilling techniques; but current food crops are not optimized for those); and the perennial problem of over-population and continued world-wide population growth. Oh, and also rabid opposition by well-meaning environmentalists against useful gene-manipulation and breeding techniques.
So, we shall see. We live in very interesting times. As always.