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What a Car-free Future Could Bring to Food

How can a future without cars and mainstream urban farming practices be? In this article, we explore that possible scenario to bring it a bit more close to real life.

Some days ago we asked you to choose a couple of completely random and unrelated topics for this month’s article. What you didn’t know is that two of the options are actually the topic of an upcoming project we’re working on right now. Now what we were surprised to discover is that the most relevant topics for you all were these two.

 

The poll showed us that what you’re more interested in is “car-free futures” and “urban farming becoming mainstream”.

 

So, let’s this article be an in-advance introduction to the project:

Imagine a past, not far from today, when cars were all over the place. I was young back then. People used to go everywhere by car: your friends birthday, grocery shopping, shopping in general, to the cinema, and even to the train station and to the gym! Can you believe that? Well it was a different time. Back then, everything in front of us now was gray, bare concrete and dirty asphalt.

Now cars are almost non existent. There are of course still cars and buses, you know, but they are all electric, and the concept of private car has completely blurred. Now companies, both public and private, offer car sharing services at really affordable prices, so people started wondering what was the point in owning a car and with time, cars… well, disappeared. 

“People used to go everywhere by car: your friends birthday, grocery shopping, shopping in general, to the cinema, and even to the train station and to the gym! Can you believe that?”

But this didn’t happen in the blink of an eye. The big old cities were not ready to sustain a comfortable, modern life without cars, so they just had to readjust. Public transport became the norm, and with more people using it cities needed to maintain and upgrade it constantly: now it was faster, noiseless, cheaper and reached even the most remote locations. Of course, it was electric, and some cities created laws that regulated the source of that electricity, so public transport was, finally, green, affordable and convenient.

 

Companies offering car related services were also forced to go green, either by governments or due to social demand. These companies had relatively big fleets and facilities, where they stored and recharged their vehicles. Delivery vehicles still existed, but most small and short distance packages are now delivered by drones, usually at night. Bikes and other personal vehicles sales also skyrocketed. But, most importantly, people started walking more. With all the changes made to cities, people were able to go almost everywhere by foot, and that’s what they did.

 

Cities became walkable, and with so many people walking over the city, the landscape just didn’t fit anymore. Big roads with more than one or two lanes were now excessive. Concrete and asphalt everywhere didn’t suit people’s lifestyles anymore. If you walk almost everywhere, you want to walk in a beautiful, natural city, don’t you?

“Cities became walkable, and with so many people walking over the city, the landscape just didn’t fit anymore. Big roads with more than one or two lanes were now excessive. Concrete and asphalt everywhere didn’t suit people’s lifestyles anymore. If you walk almost everywhere, you want to walk in a beautiful, natural city, don’t you?”

Parks began to sprout like mushrooms here and there, it was the easy option. “People didn’t want roads anymore? Let’s put a park then”, was the instinctive move of many city councils. And going to a park was cool: they were always full of kids playing and people running, walking, practicing yoga, playing with dogs, picnicking, etc.

 

But soon enough, that wasn’t enough. Remote jobs were common since the Pandemic, and having everything they needed 15 walking-minutes away gave people a lot of free time.

“And this is the story, my son, of how, when pollution was literally asphyxiating our cities and killing us, we turned back to nature. We made an unconscious choice, we involuntarily asked for help, and nature was still there for us, having our backs. Nature hadn’t left us alone, she was just waiting for us to call her. She came. After all, she fucking came…”

And that’s when people started turning some of the smaller parks into beautiful, exuberant urban farms and orchards. Neighbors would just gather together, share the land, the responsibilities, and obviously the produce. And so many beautiful things happened there: kids started learning about the value of food, and ultimately of life, and retired people and elders, with less responsibilities, became the main carers of the yields. So many things changed. Organic waste dumpsters became empty: people started collecting their waste to feed the crops; bees population started to slowly increase again after almost collapsing, wild animals and almost forgotten bird species came back, people started saving money, which they could later use in the nearby local stores…

Of course, small urban farms were nothing new. Some pioneering cities had done just that in recent decades, when I was younger: from Barcelona to New York, Tokyo or Bagdad, small urban farms established here and there. They were fun, something weird to have in your city, a curiosity similar to having an iconic building or a sculpture made by a famous artist. But it wasn’t until we got rid of cars that it became mainstream. 

Urban farms didn’t just stayed in parks: roundabouts, gas stations, long, infinite roads that were not useful anymore, huge areas of parking space, car washing facilities and even parts, if not complete highways turned into parks and orchards. This was how we finally realized the amount of space we had surrendered to cars in the past. It was like waking up from a nightmare. We were suddenly looking at each other in silence —no more honking or engines noise—, surrounded by fruit trees and cabbages, surprised and shaking our heads by how stupid we had been.

And this is the story, my son, of how, when pollution was literally asphyxiating our cities and killing us, we turned back to nature. We made an unconscious choice, we involuntarily asked for help, and nature was still there for us, having our backs. Nature hadn’t left us alone, she was just waiting for us to call her. She came. After all, she fucking came…

 

Now take that basket and let’s bring it home, that carrot cake ain’t gonna bake itself!