Big Steps in Building: Survival, Not Suburbs

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subdivisions growing on prime farmland just north of Toronto

Toronto architect Phil Carter bought a farm many years ago on the edge of Port Hope, Ontario. Today it is surrounded by shopping centers and subdivisions and the farmer who plants corn on it says "this land's just good for growing houses, now."

Except now, across the United States, we have thousands of houses empty or in foreclosure, worth a fraction of what they once were, while food is costing twice what it once did. More importantly, that farmland being paved over is close to cities and towns, making it far more valuable for local food. What kind of trade was this? Prime farmland for empty houses in unsustainable suburbs?


As Lester Brown noted inan earlier post, A fast-unfolding food shortage is engulfing the entire world, driving food prices to record highs. "The world has not experienced anything quite like this before. In the face of rising food prices and spreading hunger, the social order is beginning to break down in some countries. In several provinces in Thailand, for instance, rustlers steal rice by harvesting fields during the night. In response, Thai villagers with distant fields have taken to guarding ripe rice fields with loaded shotguns."

Big Step in Building: We are at the beginning of a major food crisis and can no longer afford to lose agricultural land close to our cities and towns. Let's use this time out in the construction industry to bring in rules that put food first and preserve agricultural land. They do this in Europe and Japan; they can do it in North America too. In those parts of the continent where the development industry is still paving over farmland, let's have an immediate moratorium on any construction on farmland: We are talking survival, not subdivisions.