Saturday, February 11, 2012

#42 / Farm Land Foregone

This coming Wednesday, the Watsonville City Council will decide whether or not to promote the conversion of the significant farmlands around the City to more urban growth. When I first became active in public life in Santa Cruz, the Mayor of Watsonville asserted that the City should stretch "from the mountains to the sea." It appears that this idea is still motivating City officials.

The City's current Mayor (like former Mayors) would like to get approval to convert economically productive farmlands to make those lands available for some sort of regional shopping facility. Presumably, the Mayor thinks that this would make the City better off, rather than worse off.

Are we better off when we transform the world of nature into a world created of, by, and for ourselves? We tend to think that our human world, the world we make, is more congenial to human life than the world of nature, a world we didn't make.

I wonder about that.


  1. It seems to me so lazy and irresponsible to cover such magnificent farmland with concrete and human habitation. They're more than "economically productive"—that soil is uncommonly deep and rich. Once it's gone, it's gone. Do they think terraced farming on the hillsides will follow? Do they think their no-longer-local food will come from China or the desert?

  2. "Are we better off when we transform the world of nature into a world created of, by, and for ourselves."

    Let's not forget that the farmland is created of, by and for ourselves. Farmland, especially industrial farmland, is not Nature. Before it was farmland, it was floodplain, replete with rich biodiversity, bursting with all manner of life, fecund beyond the imagination of the people now farming in a depauperate environment.

    That being said, would this land created for humans be best used as land to grow food or land to grow the economy, if indeed shopping centers are good for the economy in the first place?

    At some point, we will make an end, either when we decide to or when we are forced to by resource depletion, pollution, biodoversity loss and topsoil degradation.

    Why not make some intelligent decisions now while we still have some cultural resilience left?

  3. As you might imagine, I agree with Paul's comment, and Michael's comment, and very much appreciate the point that Michael is making: our system of commercial agriculture is in and of itself not "natural," but is a human artifact, and we don't live, with respect to our food supply, directly within the world of nature. Still... I think the choice between maintaining the irrigated farmlands around Watsonville and paving them over for retail shopping centers is pretty clear.

  4. How many thousands (yes, that many and more) of shopping centers in the U S have been abandoned or are not productive other than to lead to squalor and decay? They could have been NOT constructed, and the land left to farming or nature.
    The Pajaro Valley has perhaps the richest agricultural land in the world. The valley also has too many empty office buildings, store fronts, and apartments. In addition to downtown Watsonville, there are already five major shopping centers. Anyone looking for retail space can find it at any of these locations.
    Leave the farm land alone!
    "They paved paradise to put up a parking lot" Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi


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