My friend Monique visits her chickens—soon to be allowed home, we hope. Photo by Cynnie Gaasch.
Again and again, I read: homeowners stopped from growing gardens in
their easeways/parkways/medians. Or community garden space shut down for
possible development. Or, here’s another common one: A woman is in hiding as she fights for Torontonians’ right to keep chickens
in their backyard. People are so afraid of chickens, yet unregulated pit bulls,
snakes, iguanas, and god-knows-what roam free.
As our neighbors an hour north of us seek to decriminalize
chickens—just as Buffalo is finally succeeding in doing—I have to wonder. Who
is the enemy here? Do plants really inhibit drivers from exiting their
driveways safely? I doubt it—certainly less than a car parked on the street,
and no one is serious about suggesting it be destroyed forever. Do hens make
obnoxious noise or smells? No more than the dogs next door, and probably less. (We won't talk about cats, squirrels, rats, deer, and rabbits.) Is
it so important that an empty lot be preserved forever against the dubious
possibility of possible construction? Not in this economy: plant some tomatoes,
for god’s sake, so we can get something out of this empty land!
Finally, are city planning regulations so sacrosanct that
they should never be questioned? Are they born out of ultimate and irrefutable wisdom?
Of course not. I took a tour of
community gardens, urban tree farms, rain gardens, clover “lawns,” and,
finally, an amazing aquaponic planting system two days ago with a former
“landscaper” who couldn’t stand one more blue spruce/smoke bush/Kentucky
bluegrass installation. He’s had it and so have I. Now he spends most of his
time acquiring available lots and transforming them into regenerative designs. He
hates the words “sustainable” and “green” because they’ve been co-opted to the
point of meaninglessness.
It seems to me that many urban planners are caught in a very
tiresome rut that goes back to the sixties and maybe before. They have not paid
attention to nature; perhaps they never did. There is no reason cities cannot
comfortably accommodate the production of local food and a better way of
handling the way we use plants. There just isn’t.
And that is my rant for today.