Urban food production: A contribution to urban resilience in Berlin?
We are an urbanized species now. Since 2007, more than 50% of Earth’s population lives in cities (UN-Habitat 2011). In countries of the global north, this share is even higher with 86% (UN-Habitat 2011). These are the indices for a contemporary exodus of humans into the cities which results in a dramatic shift of human spatial and material relationships with the rest of nature (Rees and Wackernagel 1996). Urbanization leads to a centralization of needs for natural resources and energy in densely populated areas. The provision for the needs of these densely populated areas is based on rural hinterlands.
In times of cheap oil, these growing cities have a global impact as their provision networks have expanded to a global scale: their demand for food, fibre, energy and water is being met by a growing network of producers and importers in all parts of the world supported by high-tech communication and transport systems. The German Association of Organic Growers noted, for instance, an increasing need for long-distance transports of food from all over the world (BÖLW 2008). Germany now is a net-importer of vegetables and fruits (Ng & Aksoy 2008). These globalized food supply chains are highly dependent on cheap resources, especially energy for production, processing and transport. The environmental and social impacts of these activities are largely unknown at the place of product consumption.
Cities – not only in industrialized countries – rely heavily on a global hinterland (Sassen 2005). Rees and Wackernagel (1996) understand cities even as black holes for resources. When calculating the ecological footprint of cities it shows that they are highly dependent on more area than they actually possess (Rees and Wackernagel 1996). The ecological footprint of Berlin’s citizens, for instance, expands to 168-times the territory of the city (Schnauss 2001). An important share of this footprint relates to the provision of food, in the case of Berlin over 37% (Schnauss 2001).