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Urban gardens, agriculture, and water management: Sources of resilience for long-term food security in cities

Stephan Barthel, Christian Isendahl Ecological Economics (2012).doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.06.018


Food security has always been a key resilience facet for people living in cities. This paper discusses lessons for food security from historic and prehistoric cities. The Chicago school of urban sociology established a modernist under- standing of urbanism as an essentialist reality separate from its larger life-support system. However, different urban histories have given rise to a remarkable spatial diversity and temporal variation viewed at the global and long-term scales that are often overlooked in urban scholarship. Drawing on two case studies from widely different historical and cultural contexts – the Classic Maya civilization of the late first millennium AD and Byzantine Con- stantinople – this paper demonstrates urban farming as a pertinent feature of urban support systems over the long-term and global scales. We show how urban gardens, agriculture, and water management as well as the linked social–ecological memories of how to uphold such practices over time have contributed to long-term food security during eras of energy scarcity. We exemplify with the function of such local blue–green infrastruc- tures during chocks to urban supply lines. We conclude that agricultural production is not “the antithesis of the city," but often an integrated urban activity that contribute to the resilience of cities.

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