Completely coincidentally, I was assigned the same reading from Nature’s Metropolis at the same time for another class I am taking called the Global Politics of Food and Agriculture. The intended effect of the reading for each class was different: while in our class the reading was meant to act as an introduction and revealing history of the 1st of three cities we will focus on this semester, in the other the reading was meant to illustrate how industrialization and the introduction of trains transformed food produced by the hinterlands outside of Chicago into a commodity that was fair game for market speculation and the subsequent effects on hunger. However, both classes discussed the issue of early Chicagoans’ desire to affect changes in nature to benefit them.
The lasting effects of these changes on the way we treat food as a nation and as a global community are proving to be devastating: mass industrialization and commoditization of food has contributed to world hunger, lead to contaminated food, and all sorts of other atrocities, and one could point a finger at Chicago for being the seminal agent in this global disaster. Today, Chicago is once again on the cutting edge of innovation, but this time it may be working for the global good.
The Chicago Tribune published an article April of last year detailing the intended repurposing of a 93,500 sq ft abandoned meat packing plant into a completely sustainable aquaponic urban farm, in which ecosystems of farmed tilapia would be used to fertilize and irrigate vegetable and herb gardens on every floor, in a high rise garden of sorts. The owner, Joe Edel, plans to use an anaerobic digester to convert an estimated yearly 2.1 million gallons of waste into gas that will power a generator that will power the plant. To keep this post brief, I will spare more details about the inner workings of the plant, though it is a fascinating read. You can visit The Plant's website to learn all about new developments with the project as well as how to get involve. Maybe this time it is Chicago’s destiny to return its industrial ruins back to nature.