Morgan's Brain

Feb. 10, 2009 at 12:49am

Tacoma in the Post-Consumer Era

I've been thinking about Tacoma's future quite a bit lately. With the economy worsening to levels we haven't experienced in generations, the need for action seems to be increasing. But what to do?

In his latest post, Kunstler offers up two salient thoughts:
- Plant food.
- Do everything possible to make our living places walkable, and connect them with public transit.

As bombastic as he is, I have to agree with him on many points in his post: the Obama team is not offering enough "change," Malls are unsustainable, Americans drive too far and too much, continuous economic growth is unrealistic, yard sales will gain in popularity...

If this nation wants to survive without an intense political convulsion, there's a lot we can do, but none of it is being voiced in any corner of Washington at this time. We have to get off of petro-agriculture and grow our food locally, at a smaller scale, with more people working on it and fewer machines. This is an enormous project, which implies change in everything from property allocation to farming methods to new social relations. But if we don't focus on it right away, a lot of Americans will end up starving, and rather soon. We have to rebuild the railroad system in the US, and electrify it, and make it every bit as good as the system we once had that was the envy of the world. If we don't get started on this right away, we're screwed. We will have tremendous trouble moving people and goods around this continent-sized nation. We have to reactivate our small towns and cities because the metroplexes are going to fail at their current scale of operation. We have to prepare for manufacturing at a much smaller (and local) scale than the scale represented by General Motors.

A consensus is firming up on each side of the "stimulus" question, largely along party lines -- simply those who are for it and those who are against it, mostly by degrees. Nobody in either party -- including supposed independents such as Bernie Sanders or John McCain, not to mention President Obama -- has a position for directing public resources and effort at any of the things I mentioned above: future food security, future travel-and-transport security, or the future security of livable, walkable dwelling places based on local networks of economic interdependency. This striking poverty of imagination may lead to change that will tear the nation to pieces.

When I hear of people in other countries protesting in the streets, fire-bombing embassies, overturning cars, and generally declaring "ENOUGH!" I sometimes wonder what it would take to get this nation so worked up that it does the same. And I would hate to find out.

The above image shows community owned land in downtown Tacoma which continues to sit vacant and unused. If there was ever capacity to create an urban garden, Tacoma has it:
- Land.
- People.
- Tagro.

We better hurry though, planting season is right around the corner.


comments [6]  |  posted under tacoma


by Dmitri on 2/10/2009 @ 6:36am
Even people like me ... I'm usually ready to buy every gadget I see ... are changing their consumption and purchasing habits. For many of us, it feels like it's more than temporary. At some point, you look around and realize you have enough stuff.

It's that old vicious circle. Our system is set up to thrive as long as we all keep buying. For many of us, buying our way to happiness works less well than we thought it once did. If enough of us hold to that attitude, the short-term economic picture will remain bleak.

Long term, we're going to have to come up with something new, something sustainable, that doesn't only rely on retail sales. Urban gardens on neglected property would be a great start.

by KevinFreitas on 2/10/2009 @ 7:26am
So what do county records say about ownership on those blocks? If it's truly public land, let's not wait. Just act. Guerrilla community garden party anyone?

by morgan on 2/10/2009 @ 9:34am
KevinFreitas: the huge chunk south of 21st is owned by you and me - aka the City of Tacoma. The chunk to the north is very slowly being acquired by UWT- even though realistically no development will happen on parcels not yet owned by UWT.

Due to the contaminated nature of Tacoma's dirt, a more coordinated effort than guerrilla's is required. In other words, it will not happen overnight.

What the city needs is a map of Tacoma showing city-owned vacant lots and unused substation sites. That will help define an action plan.

Dmitri: I agree. Long term, there needs to be a better solution. Economic development in and of itself is not enough. Community development requires more effort, but in the long run leads to economic development.

by Erik on 2/10/2009 @ 11:17am
Those areas need to be filled with humans with perhaps an adjacent victory garden.

My preference is to sell off those lots for housing and perhaps we can sustain some retail downtown rather than funding cross base highway.

The best would a high density development around a common green area/victory garden.

by Mofo from the Hood on 2/10/2009 @ 12:24pm
I travel on Fawcett Ave quite a lot and I still haven't settled on how to think about that stretch... (1) I'm travelling through a peaceful greenbelt... (2) This area will someday be redeveloped with high-tech housing filled with new generation tolerant hybrid humans... (3) I'm travelling through the ruins of a former lively neighborhood and this area will look the same as now for the next fifty years.

by NineInchNachos on 2/10/2009 @ 1:00pm
dirt alert!!

always use raised beds with fresh tagro potting mix. The toxic waste ingrained into the top 6-8 inches of our local soil is a legacy gift of capitalism subsidized by the environment.

Thanks Ruston!