Bulldozed

Escape From Suburbia DVD coverSunday evening I watched Escape From Suburbia. A Peak Oil movie with, reportedly, a more upbeat message than The End Of Suburbia (which I haven not seen and, probably won’t be rushing out to watch).

If this is upbeat, I need syncopation.

The movie takes for granted that energy prices will rise steeply when oil reaches peak production, and all that that might entail for the lifestyle developed western countries — well North America in this particular case: the movie’s subtitle is Beyond The American Dream. It goes on to investigate the personal responses of a few individuals who are escaping from lives they consider unsustainable either by moving geographically out of cities and suburbs or by starting to re-invent their lives starting with how they think and behave.

South Central Farms was an urban farm and community garden in the middle of the city of Los Angeles where food for 350 families was grown by the local community organised by a non-profit organization called L.A. Regional Food Bank. It features in the movie as a paradigmatic example of local resilience and community. During the making of the movie, however, the farm was under threat from land developers and it seems the city sold the land in a back-room deal. The community gardens were bulldozed to make way for warehouse development.

Watch it for yourself (the bit with the bulldozers is towards the end, if you don’t have time to watch a five-minute video, skipt forward to 4:20 and watch from there to the end, and remember this happened in the middle of L.A.)

When I saw the bulldozers carving up the vegetable beds and those people crying I was reminded of that bit in The Grapes Of Wrath by Steinbeck where the bulldozers come and destroy the homes and farms of people who have stayed on the land in the American mid-West. The title of the book is taken from the Battle Hymn of the Republic, by Julia Ward How and, according to Wikipedia, refers to the book of Revelation 14:19-20:

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God…

That sickle blade and the bulldozer became one for me, and yesterday, when I told my friend Anna about it, I sobbed big tears for the people who have been pushed off their land by the sickle of the angel of commercial growth.

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