Commentary

An Open Letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger in Support of a ‘Victory Gardening Commission’

By Robert Singer

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Gov. Schwarzenegger:

President Barack Obama has said the country’s economic crisis is the “greatest economic challenge of our lifetime” and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Unemployment has surpassed 8 percent nationally. In California its reached double-digits (10.5 percent). There is no doubt the numbers will continue to surge as more people are laid off from their jobs.

But there’s a critical question behind these cold, hard facts: is California or the nation prepared for the social dislocation, economic despair and breakdown in law and order that could occur as the crisis worsens? Do we have enough police, National Guard or military to keep order when millions of out of work, out of home and out of food?

As Governor, you can immediately take steps to mitigate the chaos and possible anarchy now before it is too late. One activity that can have the most far-reaching effects in these times of crisis is Victory Farms as put forth by Eleanor Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

Dmitri Orlov, an eyewitness to the collapse of the Soviet Union, had said that  “with a bit of preparation, such events can be taken in stride.”

Closing the Collapse Gap

Although the Soviet agricultural sector was notoriously inefficient, many people grew and gathered their own food even in relatively prosperous times. There were food warehouses in every city, stocked according to a government allocation scheme. There were very few restaurants, and most families cooked and ate at home. Shopping was rather labor-intensive, and involved carrying heavy loads. Sometimes it resembled hunting – stalking that elusive piece of meat lurking behind some store counter. So the people were well prepared for what came next.

In the United States, most people get their food from a supermarket, which is supplied from far away using refrigerated diesel trucks. Many people don’t even bother to shop and just eat fast food. When people do cook, they rarely cook from scratch. This is all very unhealthy, and the effect on the nation’s girth, is visible, clear across the parking lot. A lot of the people, who just waddle to and from their cars, seem unprepared for what comes next. If they suddenly had to start living like the Russians, they would blow out their knees.

Therefore I propose you create a Victory gardening commission to educate and encourage Urban Agriculture in all of California.

Throughout the United States, 43 million people have already seen the benefits of urban gardening and many have exchanged their front lawns for front gardens of organic fruits and vegetables, which no longer waste the water we no longer have because of the draught.

When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime.  By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America.

Gov. Schwarzenegger, I urge you to throw your support behind your wife, Maria, and First Lady Michelle Obama and support a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over the reality of millions of homeless people without jobs or money.

Sen. Fran Pavley, who sits on the Senate Food & Agriculture committee, would be a good fit to head a new commission formed to promote Urban farming in California. 

Simply put, eating food cultivated from a “victory” garden, the shortest food chain of all, offers anyone with a patch of land a way to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption and help Fran, global warming rock star, fight climate change.

Just as important, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system – something more ennobling, surely, than merely asking them to shop a little differently.

We all know we are in the fifth year of a drought and many water districts are calling for mandatory rationing: it makes sense to encourage Californians to replace their front lawns with front gardens. Imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals, not to mention the pesticides that the environment will be spared.

Your wife is doing her part by joining the urban farming fever and planting a vegetable garden in Capitol Park in Sacramento.

Gardening promotes community as families and neighbors share their experiences as well as their garden bounty. Families learn together and work together for a common goal. Gardening allows many people to develop an acceptance of different ideas and practices and helps develop a sense of peace and tranquility, a necessity in the coming time as President Elect Obama will lead the nation out of its unsustainable American Dream and into the great new depression.

There will be chaos, perhaps, but with Urban gardening we might avoid anarchy.

Respectfully,
 
Robert Singer

Robert Singer is a retired information technology professional and an environmental activist living in southern California. He co-founded The Hospitalist Company where he served as chief technology officer. Today the company manages more than 130 practice groups, providing care in some 300 medical facilities in 18 states.

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