Time for the brown land farming revolution?

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rebel_lion
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Joined: 29-09-03
Aug 16 2004 20:07
Time for the brown land farming revolution?

This is just a thought that has been knocking around in my head for some time, inspired partly by the state of many of Britain's (particularly Northern England's) industrial cities and partly by the old New Internationalist poster of the Brazilian Landless Movement reclaiming land which hangs on my door... wink

We all know that there are huge numbers of unemployed people living in vast areas of cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Stoke, Newcastle, etc etc, many of them in families where no one has had a job for 2 or 3 generations. These people are sitting on their arses rotting on the dole, with no self-esteem or real purpose for living, too atomised to organise but seeking ways out of their situation (if they can imagine a way out at all) in petty drug dealing, playing the Lottery, etc. OK, so that's a bit of an exaggeration, but for many people it's close to reality, living in hopeless run down council estates and living off shitty, pre-packaged supermarket food bought with the tiny bit of money that is begrudgingly dribbled to them by the state, an almost surreal life of total disconnection from anything resembling meaningful social purpose or community, in an urban wasteland where food comes from Asda and there is truthfully nothing "real" to live for in terms of having control over your own life.

In these same cities, because so many housing developments have crumbled into ruins or been knocked down after no one wanted to live in them, and because so many industries have left Britain for poorer countries with cheaper labour or been forced out of business by the systematic Thatcherite destruction of working-class cukture, there are acres of brown land which absolutely nothing is being done with, just sitting there strewn with rubbish or overgrown with brambles and buddleia, while new houses for the rich are being built on green field land (including even within sites of special natural interest and national parks) and fresh produce that could be grown in Britain is imported from halfway across the world in plastic packaging.

Considering these things, the thought struck me that what Britain really needs, and what would be an amazing and genuinely radical "working class" movement (although it would transcend the outdated Marxist concept of "working class") would be if the people living their miserable purposeless existence in urban purgatory could organise and start taking over that land, growing food on it for their own communities. If people rejected the traditional capitalist idea of "getting a job" and decided to become self-sufficient for as much of their food needs as possible, reviving the art of subsistence farming in an urban setting, then not only would the public have to become aware that "getting a job" in the capitalist sense isn't the only way of having purpose and keeping alive, but true grass-roots communities would be built which would do something the remedy the ridiculous unsustainability of the present-day money/food economy...

Any thoughts on the idea? (yes, i know it would meet immediate state resistance and oppression...)

*plays ADF's "Naxalite", and wishes it could become a reality, even though it's obviously a hippy dream with no hope of realisation* sad

spike
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Joined: 13-07-04
Aug 16 2004 23:39

rebel_lion, i think your post comes across as very patronising tbh, especially the second paragraph:

Quote:
These people are sitting on their arses rotting on the dole, with no self-esteem or real purpose for living, too
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people living their miserable purposeless existence in urban purgatory

eek

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there are acres of brown land which absolutely nothing is being done with, just sitting there strewn with rubbish or overgrown with brambles and buddleia, while new houses for the rich are being built on green field land

That isn't the case in Manchester.

There is little, if any, green field land left. All the yuppie appartments that ahve sprung up recently have been builot on brown field sites.

In some parts of the city perfectly decent houses are being knocked down to make way for more profitable (probably less sturdily built) yuppie flats.

Have you ever visited / lived in any of these cities you mention, rebel_lion? cos, it really doesn't sound like you have.

There are in fact a lot of working class people around here who grow stuff in allotments and community gardens, some w/c ppl even grow stuff in their back yards - astonishing, isn't it!!

rebel_lion
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Joined: 29-09-03
Aug 17 2004 11:38

alright, i'm getting a bit pissed off with these sort of accusations ("patronising" etc) being thrown at me for posting this, here and in a few other places.

what i wrote was consciously an exaggeration, and i didn't intend to say that *everyone's* life in those cities was like that. i have visited all the cities mentioned, and while i said "particularly northern England" the same can be said of bits of London, Glasgow the Midlands, etc, so i didn't mean to single out a particular area.

what motivated me was not feeling judgemental but a feeling of intense hopelessness - seeing a life that for many in this country really is as i described it. my own life feels like this sometimes.

one thing i'm NOT is a middle class liberal. i'm from a poor background, have struggled with extreme poverty and not by choice, have been homeless and spent more hours than i can remember begging and screaming in desperation at benefits agency people, social services etc. i'm not saying that to give myself some extra "cred", i'm saying that to illustrate where i'm coming from.

my writing style can easily become a bit overblown and "flowery", and i tend to write stuff that can look a bit "middle class" in tone to people who assume poor=inarticulate, but that "miserable purposeless existence" is real, even if i have used a bit of hyperbole... it drives me close to suicide on a regular basis.

i'm just desperate to see something really radical happen, and not just this "scraping along"... in order to try and stir people up enough to achieve this, i guess i do sometimes exaggerate how bad things are... ok, the post was a bit il thought out, it was more an on the spot rant than anything else i guess.

but i would still argue that land reclamation is not only possible, but necessary, if we are ever going to have real food sustainability... you can dismiss "sustainability" as just a middle class concern if you like, but *all* of us are going to starve if we don't achieve it...

bigdave
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Joined: 25-07-04
Aug 17 2004 12:41

It can be a little bit tricky writing in "standard" English. I've been called patronising and middle class also. An example of how I actually speak would be as follows (with a semi-colon being the glottal stop) - "Merry hid uh li;le lamb, its fleece wiz whi;e iz snaw. Ivry wherr thi; Merry wen;, the lamb wiz sure ;ae go."

I said in an earlier post that I just write like this from habit, school and work. I don't want to adjust how I write to become more socially acceptable and cool. I don't do it in any other area of life.

Aye, I also got that you were hyprbolising slightly but not fucking much. I've lived in afew places where the despair seeps down the walls. Unfortunately, I think your idea would be quite unacheivable until we work out some way of organising better. The supermarkets, for one, would want to hang you from a lampost. But definitely I see it as a part of future land use.

captainmission
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Joined: 20-09-03
Aug 17 2004 13:44
Quote:
are acres of brown land which absolutely nothing is being done with, just sitting there strewn with rubbish or overgrown with brambles and buddleia

there a reason that only bramble or buddleia grow there. If we're taking about ex-industrial land or even ex-residential land, that land is going to need serious reclaimation (with serious investment of time and resources). Its going to take years before you're going to be able to grow marrows or cabbage there. If we're talking about growing on land people don't own would you be willing to put in maybe 10 years of graft before you see any return, all the time unsure whether that land might be developed on later? All the cities you mentioned are in the middle of property booms, brownfield site near city centres aren't going to stay that way for long.

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you can dismiss "sustainability" as just a middle class concern if you like, but *all* of us are going to starve if we don't achieve it...

don't think spike was dismissing sustainability, just the language you used.

But what you going to do to make this happen (other than wait for doley council estate scum to do it for you smile ). Maybe you should get together with some friends and start an allotment?

leaf street, hulme

random
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Joined: 7-01-04
Aug 17 2004 19:08

rebel i get that same feeling of hopelessness, and i understand about the writing too. ive been accused of being a mc liberal myself (here) which is about as far from the truth as can be. i cant write in my accent but here is a link, this always cheers me up so maybe it will do for you too. grin

i've been checking out all the cooperative housing projects around, theres one on a farm not far from me, and they seem like a pretty good way of reclaiming and sharing space with like minded people. also, allotments are pretty cheap so if you want to get growing you could consider going halvsies with a mate for company and sharing of gardening work. if you just want to reclaim a bit of space then you could start with stickering, stencilling or graf, i reckon reclaiming even a few inches of space puts a smile on the face. or if you want to do some good and avoid getting a temp job you could always find some decent local organisation to volunteer with, or start your own if you feel there is a need. for example, you could help council flat tenants to organise and make demands for money and other help to do up their area, plan a mural, start a garden or something. or you could even just visit elderly people in your area, check they're ok, make em cups of tea and chat with them about current events or their memories, maybe even do an oral history project (which you can get cash to do) - i reckon thats probably a pretty decent way to spend unemployed time. better than playing Pandora Tomorrow at any rate.