College Recap I: The Green City

College Recap I: The Green City

I just finished my first year at the University of Southern California--over the spring semester, I took climate change, folklore, and food analysis courses, and I never realized how much these disciplines overlap when discussing global warming. From learning about cultural sustainability to understanding the narratives and stories that solidify group belief, I was fascinated with the dynamic relationship between humans and their environment. I was constantly reminded of this initiative and why we started it in the first place. 

When we began, we were introduced to the solar punk aesthetic, a utopian vision of harmony between nature and technology. Artful masterpieces showcasing cityscapes with cascading waterfalls and vibrant gardens dotted my Pinterest board, and I was inspired to continue upholding this vision. However, when learning about the price of food in my social analysis seminar, I was made aware of the rising conflicts between the city and countryside. Our romanticized mirage of a green, modern city may overestimate just how feasible it actually is. We are imagining a new paradise--one where food is healthy, bountiful, and fresh. 

Guerrilla gardening has become a form of urban counterculture; planters lay fresh soil on waste ground and abandoned areas, as they try to work around busy areas of transportation, bridges, and other markers of city life. Consumers are once again reviving their appreciation for locally grown foods and are more considerate of the stories that come with what they eat. Some possess an idyllic vision to revert to rural ways and begin anew. As I've discovered in both my folklore and food classes, a nostalgia for the past appears to directly oppose modernity and technological advancements. 

Simultaneously, however, we are also turning our backs on rural landscapes and trying to intertwine gardening with the metropolitan life. It's as if we are trying to put the solar punk aesthetic into action: we desire to integrate farming into a bustling hub. However, many fail to consider just how cramped cities are, especially with skyrocketing populations; unrealistic expectations overlook the lack of space and the unusable lands wrought with pollution. Local urban gardens cannot replace arable farming, as they're unable to fully feed populations. However, it is attainable for urban consumers to become more involved in what grows around them. We can grow closer to our food and reignite creativity and personal connection to our favorite recipes and dishes. Right now, we have become so distanced from our food that we have lost a sense of agency and accountability. Furthermore, many have forgotten that we cannot survive without food supplies from rural areas. 

As of now, the peaceful intersection between urban and rural remains an aesthetic that appears mystical. Perhaps we can inch towards this vision by using technology to our advantage. However, it is currently developing at such a rapid pace that it has become unsustainable and damaging. It is no longer feasible to revert back to the "old ways" and erase our technological footprints, so we need to find a way for nature and technology to work together in creating a more sustainable future. Modern infrastructure is expunging traditional farming yet supermarkets are trying to replicate the concept of the local, communal aspect of food. We are so overwhelmed with the infinite number of choices that we've turned a blind eye to wasteful consumption. If we want solar punk to become more than an artistic movement, then we must acknowledge the role the city and the countryside plays in making it a reality. 

It's fascinating to see how art, narrative, and science can intertwine to storyboard new possibilities while also addressing what we need to change. Throughout this summer, I will be reflecting on what I've learned in class--from the truth about cherry blossoms to the Sixth Extinction and cultural sustainability, there is a lot of ground to cover. 

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