Wall Street 24/7 re cently listed Albany as one of Americas
Ten Dead Cities, along with Detroit, Flint, Cleveland, and
Atlantic City. I dont mention this because Im
going to bother spending an entire column explaining why this
is stupid. Even if you can presume to label a city dead
based on stats about shrinking population or losing jobs (which
is a questionable and questionably useful proposition in and
of itself), only a myopic New Yorker with a bone to pick with
Albany as in state government and who can barely
think of more than 10 cities outside of New York could consider
Albany to belong on that list. Above Youngstown, Camden, Utica,
Gary, Schenectady? Please. Ive seen the data. Admit
your biases and dont pretend to be basing this on analysis
of anything. (For the record, I wouldnt consider any
of those cities dead, either, but theyre
a lot more hard up than Albany.)
so absurd as to not even warrant being insulted about.
lets talk about some of the great stuff being done with
our not overcrowded or overpriced urban land.
I biked down with my daughter to the South End where Grand
Street Community Arts and the Capital District Permaculture
Guild are cleaning up two vacant lots on Catherine Street.
They are planting an urban meadow on one side with plants
that will remediate the soil, pulling up toxins, until it
is safe to plant vegetables in. On the other side will be
beds of native plants, a shelter with benches and a rainwater
catchment system, and sculpture by Albany High students. My
kid helped paint rock markers for the native beds
and I managed to clear less garbage than I might have liked
before I had to leave again, but it made me extraordinarily
happy to be there and see that in progress.
college self, who spent years battling with the people from
whom I was getting an environmental studies degree about the
relevance of social justice and urban issues to the environmental
movement, had gotten a sneak peek at this kind of merging
of those worlds, those expertises, those groups of people,
I think I would have felt a lot more hopeful about the future.
the same time Id been given a prophetic vision about
Austins Rhizome Collective, some of whose founders are
now starting the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center here
in Albany, I probably would have moved to Texas just so I
could be there when it started.
I get to be here when Radix starts, and so do you.
Pettigrew and Scott Kellogg, authors of The Toolbox for Sustainable
City Living, have purchased a .6 acre lot at the corner of
Grand and Warren, at the edge between the Mansion neighborhood
and the South End, and they have a variance to use it. Among
other things, they plan to build a greenhouses and chicken
coops and rainwater systems. They plan to graze goats, remediate
the soil naturally, grow mushrooms and raise tasty fish and
duckweed in aquaculture systems. And build a workshop space
where they can show you how to do all this and more.
centers in its early stages, but Pettigrew and Kellogg
have already been offering Rhizomes well-known RUST
(Radical Urban Sustainability Training) program here at various
sites for several years running. Toolbox was originally known
as the RUST Manual, and even its acronym gives a sense of
the ethos behind both it and the trainings: No $1,000 10-day
long permaculture trainings that focus on agriculture and
forestry here. RUST aims to be both accessible and relevant
to urban populations, which, after all, are more than half
the earths population at the moment, and far more of
the United States.
materials, a DIY ethic, and an understanding that not everyone
has a large yard, a driveway, or a roof and bank account suited
to solar panels underlies the practical stuff the RUST Training
offers, but you also (if you want) get a good dose of the
science and politics behind it all.
come from all over, even Canada, to little ole Albany
for this training, so if you want to get into this years
(Oct. 23), sign up quickly.
meantime, happy start of harvest season. Enjoy the farmers
markets, community gardens, arts, and fall weather (Im
sure its coming soon!) in all of our regions indisputably
alive urban centers and the land that surrounds them.