The Growing Green Cities Greenhouse is a small business project with a goal to help improve the world through a little bit of innovation. In this article I will not elaborate on the details of the plan. In this article I would like to explain what happened, why the project appears to have come to a sudden stop for a few months, and what I am going to do next.
So the title ‘Tyranny or Democracy’ may sound a little bit over the top and misplaced for a site about ‘Growing Green Cities’. They’re both political expressions and on the surface one would think that growing green cities has very little to do with politics. Nothing could be further from the truth as the article below will demonstrate.
The project itself, as well as the Facebook page about the project, have both been very quiet for over 4 months now. One strong reason for this is of course the weather. Winter kicking in did not make it very appealing to go work on the greenhouse. The biggest reason for the delay is that the authority nailed me. The authority, in this case being ‘Vergunningen, Toezicht en Handhaving’ (permits, supervision and enforcement) of the city of Almere that I live in knocked on my door and told me the greenhouse I have built does not have a proper permit.
I will be using the full names of the people that dealt with this predicament. I will also be making a full list of the names of people in the organizations that presided over the outcome. To be quite honest, over the last few months I have been getting increasingly angry with these people. Through talking with many people from all over the world, people who want to try and do what I call the right thing at this point, I get the impression that this appears to be a global problem.
It is not foreign governments trying to stop progress of humanity. It is in fact our own governments trying to stop this from happening.
As dramatic and as childish as it may sound at first, let me explain further first. Then, you be the jury, and the judge and tell me what you believe. Do we still live in democracies in the western world, or are these democracies of the past rapidly deteriorating into tyrannies.
While reading, keep the following in mind:
Before you think I am indeed childish and excaggerating by quoting this definition, I invite you strongly to keep reading. I don’t think in terms of conflict and problems, I have in fact thought of a solution already. The solution is, I believe, as elegant and innovative as the project itself and an illustration of how people can, and must in my opinion, destroy the authority and break the tyranny of democracy without resorting to violent protests or being a ‘chicken little’ constantly screaming that ‘the sky is falling!!’
The spirit of democracy is that people can work together in order to achieve something that’s greater than the sum of the results. When I started this project I had high hopes of discovering this spirit. I made a pretty looking plan which was very complete in many ways, albeit lacking many details still.
If you speak Dutch, you can have a look at my original kasplan. Let me know if you see the ‘spirit’ of cooperation in this plan in the comments. Even though I wrote it back in december 2013 and many things have passed since then, things that are downright disappointing and discouraging, this plan still inspired a lot of enthusiasm and a will to continue in me.
Tracy and me went to meet with two authorities on the subject early in 2014, Roel Njio and Annemarie van Osch:
From Roel Njio‘s linkedin profile (translated):
I advise entepreneurs close to losing track in the jungle of permits. It can save a lot of time to get together before going into a formal permit process and to analyze where bottlenecks will occur. As a relations manager with the department of Permits, Supervision and Enforcement I’m approachable by anyone in Almere with a complex permit request.
These are soothing words. Being fairly analytical myself however, I also did some analyses on Roel’s performance and efforts in my particular case. Formally as a citizen of this country, I am after all his employer.
Anne Marie van Osch apparently chose not to connect with me on Linkedin. Her function however is ‘Projectmanager Sustainable Energy City of Almere’. Through my knocking on the front door of the City authorities and submitting my plan to the front desk, apparently he plan found its way to her and she graciously invited us for a talk. She was also the one who invited Roel Njio in advance ‘as lots of people have really great ideas BUT it also needs to be possible under the rules, after all’. Allow me to also evaluate her role in this affair. Not wanting to connect with me on Linkedin should have been a clue to me I guess.
Before I continue with some naming and shaming I would like to elaborate on one of the many things I have learned in this process thus far. Quoting from Wikipedia:
Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. Urban agriculture can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, Urban beekeeping, and horticulture.
There are literally countless examples of Urban Agriculture throughout history. In fact it would appear that Urban Agriculture has always been a part of humanity; Where we go and get together, we work together and our primary needs are food, warmth, energy. So it’s ‘natural’, it’s ‘normal’ and most of all it’s nothing new. From ancient Egypt where human waste was reused in a creative manner, to Machu Pichu where a hydro culture was ingeniously used, to the United States where President Wilson called upon all American citizens to utilize any available open space for food growth, it is not only desirable, it is one’s right and one’s duty to be able to produce our own food, our own warmth, our own comforts.
Nowadays, where we appear to have mostly stonified cities and the only ‘Growing Green’ seems to involve grass and trees, making a city ‘look appealing’, it also seems that these basic rights have to be decided upon by authorities as if it’s a ‘gift’ of some kind that one would be allowed to do so. I have attended a Political Cafe in the past where apparently well intending people decry the ridicule of having to ask for a permit (and not getting anywhere) to city authories to be allowed to grow food on a piece of ‘city land’ where currently only grass resides. Mind you, this is in Almere, the city hosting the Floriade in 2022. During the political cafe, several people were invited and it was a blessing to hear some people from abroad really taking this seriously and having taking this seriously for many years already.
I would like to ask you, my readers, your opinion on Urban Agriculture. I would very much appreciate if you take a minute to think about the poll below and provide me with your answer.