By Ethan Freeman
In today’s Westernized world, profit is the bottom line; more and more land is turned into commercial hubs for economic growth, causing more people to move into cities. However, one question being asked by the movers of tomorrow is, “How will these urban people get healthy, fresh, local food if there isn’t a farm within an hour’s drive?” And the truth is, they don’t. Processed foods made convenient (aka the stuff that kills us) are the staple of most urban-dwellers’ diets, and one cannot necessarily blame them. What other options are there? Well, I would like to introduce, or rather re-introduce, an agricultural technique that is as old as civilization itself… Rooftop agriculture!Rooftop agriculture has been around for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations from all over the world used this concept to help support their society. Ancient Mesopotamians would plant trees and shrubs on terraces; archeological ruins in former Roman-Byzantine Caesarea show a rooftop garden next to a theatre; Medieval Egyptians built 14-story buildings topped with gardens, and used ox to transport water to the top for irrigation.
While we may not find a need for oxen-powered water transport, we can agree that there is a need for change in how we eat and consume. The potential benefits rooftop gardens have in terms of public health are greater than we’ve seen in a long time. Imagine eating well-grown, all natural, organic foods everyday, at a reasonable price (cheaper than current cafeteria prices at UT, which are outrageous) by cutting out the many “middle men” responsible for these high prices. The food will go from the garden, to the restaurants and people who will consume them! Trent University, in Canada, has a working rooftop garden, which supplies its students with food. I don’t see why UT can’t do this… we have roofs.
There are three other huge benefits to rooftop agriculture that I think are worth mentioning. One benefit: plants absorb heat and convert it to other forms, as opposed to concrete which only absorbs heat and makes us miserable. According to newscientist.com, the temperature of cities could be lowered 6-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Less energy will be used to cool buildings, which would result in saved money. I wonder, how much money could Houston save in the summer by simply putting gardens on roofs? A problem in many cities is water run-off, which deteriorates structures, builds into stagnant puddles, and floods certain areas. Run-off, meet your match. Another benefit of rooftop gardens is the reduction of run-off by absorbing the water for their own nourishment. The third benefit is simply that it looks great and could be used recreationally. I don’t think that we get our daily dose of nature, and always seeing vegetation, especially in an urban area, could only brighten the day of all its inhabitants.
To conclude, rooftop gardens are a great way to grow and provide healthy food options to many people who don’t have that opportunity because of where they live. Rooftop gardens also provide energy savings, reduce structural deterioration, and look awesome, which makes me, and surely everyone else, feel happier living in a city. Westernized world, if this doesn’t have profit written all over it, then I don’t know what does.
If you’re interested in further reading, check out these sources:
- Catherine Brahic: “‘Green Roofs’ Could Cool Warming Cities.” New Scientist.
- “Inside Urban Green.”