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Can Shrinking Cities Regrow as Farms? [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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While much of the rest of the world undergoes an incredible surge in urbanization, certain cities in the U.S. continue to shrink in population, and thus geography. The leader of that pack, as it were, is Detroit.

This is nothing new, of course. Rome went from imperial capital to grazing land for shepherds and back again to become what is now the capital of modern Italy. Detroit may well rebound.

But, for the moment, Motor City faces the question of what to do with its roughly 70,000 dilapidated buildings—a number that grows each year—that need to be torn down and its approximately 100 square kilometers of already abandoned land. The answer may be to farm it, according to this video from PBS’s Need to Know.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Obviously, this idea is in no way limited to Detroit. Urban farms are a growing interest even in cities that aren’t shrinking, such as New York. But in a case like Detroit, urban farming may help to fill in sprawling gaps that otherwise present a host of challenges—from policing to property values. In fact, one of the proposed farms would be roughly half the size of New York’s Central Park.

Made in Detroit might soon be replaced by Grown in Detroit.

About the Author: David Biello is the associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @dbiello.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. petemicus 9:39 am 09/8/2011

    I grew up in Detroit. Left in 1981. Urban blacks will not allow these farms in Detroit. They will be demeaned as “going back to plantations.” And their theft and vandalism will destroy these farms. Rotsa Ruck…

    Link to this
  2. 2. nthmost 5:33 pm 09/8/2011

    Both property crime and violent crime have been steadily decreasing since 2000. I would guess it’s because there’s no wealth in Detroit worth sticking around to steal.

    http://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/michigan/detroit.html

    You can’t have parasites without a living host.

    Link to this

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