Tag Archives: food security

Garden cities and forest gardens

In Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of Tomorrow (1902), we can read his proposal to surround a 1,000-acre town of 30,000 residents with 5,000 acres of farm land. Since in space industry and agriculture will mainly be located outside space settlements, we could look for alternative uses for this land.

Howard pays little attention to recreation in his book. Though his design includes a central park, his garden city plan does not reserve land for sports such as field hockey and ultimate. Because sport does positively affect human wellbeing, we propose to reserve some of the land originally reserved for farms to sport fields.

In chapter 10 of his book The High Frontier (1976) O’Neill suggests that space settlements are ideal locations for gardening. Our suggestion would to combine “O’Neill” and “Howard” by reserving a substantial portion of the “farm” land for allotment gardens. These are gardens assigned for individual, non-commercial gardening.

O’Neill also advocate the concept of polyculture in his book. Polyculture is the practice of growing of multiple types of crop in the same plot of land. It’s the opposite of monoculture, which dominates modern agriculture. Scientific studies have shown that polyculture is preferable to monoculture.

There are several types of polyculture, one particular interesting concept are forest gardens. The practice of forest gardening is an ancient one, but Robert Hart has formalized it in his seven-layer outline. The first layer consists of mature fruit and nut trees, which (of course) will provide fruit and nuts. The second layer consists of smaller trees, while the third layer contains fruit bushes (currants and berries). Then the fourth layer are perennial vegetables and herbs. The fifth layer are root vegetables, the sixth are edible plants which grow horizontally. The final layer consists of vines and climbing plants.

Forest gardens is considered as a low maintenance type of gardening, and hence suitable for allotment gardens. Most people with allotment gardens, work there in their spare time. An additional benefit is that forest gardens contribute to food security by providing a wide variety of food. Potentially forest gardens could be established on rooftops.

Forest gardening is a type of agroforesty, the combination of agriculture and forestry in one system. Agroforestry does not need to limited to non-commercial allotment gardens, the utilization of non-timber forest products in forest farms can make forests management commercially interesting. We propose that forest farms should be leased to private parties, on the condition that these forests will be open to the public (see also our post on Allemansrätten).

Space settlements and food security

Food security is defined by Wikipedia as “the availability of food and one’s access to it”. Usually we speak about individuals when we talk on food security, but we can easily extend this concept to societies at large. A society enjoys food security if there is enough food available for its members, and they have access to this food.

A society has two ways to ensure that the supply of food is sufficient: by producing its own food, or by importing such food. Once enough food is available, ensuring that each member of society has access to sufficient food is the big concern. The implementation of an adequate basic income guarantee will provide everyone with the means to buy food. Hence the sole concern would be availability of sufficient amount of food.

Related to food security is the concept of food power, which is the use of food as a mean to exert power. If country A depends on the import of food from country B, the latter country can exert power on country A by denying supply if A does not meet certain conditions establish by B. These condition might be unfavourable to A, and hence this country looses sovereignty.

Space settlements has to choose between producing or importing food.  If the latter option is chosen, the space settlements became vulnerable to the exertion of food power by Earth. In this way terrestrial governments might force space settlements to implement policies, which are in violation of their own preferences. If, however, the former option is chosen, a powerful weapon is denied to terrestrial governments to influence the (domestic) policies of space settlements.

If we want to implement the social reforms we desire in space settlements, such as our proposals for monetary and banking reform, it’s of great importance that these settlements have a certain degree of independence. Therefore space settlements should be able to produce their own food. In another post we will discuss how space settlements can grow food.

See also

Space settlements and vegetarianism

Molecular farming and Space colonization