Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Pig City -- by Jamblichus

This post by Jamblichus is reprinted with his permission. Modestly hiding behind his nom de clavier, the British blogger tries "To point out and record the abuse of power by corporations, politicos, police and anyone else who has it coming. To give big-ups to academics, poets, musicians, activists and any other souls who have something interesting and unusual to say... [And to write about] civil liberties, the politics of the Korean peninsula, genetic engineering, religion and rationality, the environment in any sense of that word, poetry that makes your brain sizzle and music that makes your ears sting. " We recommend his blog.
MVRDV's Pig City proposal (details below)
Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, accounting for about 38 percent of meat production worldwide. And you know what? There’s good reason for that, all you vegetarian puritans out there: it’s downright delicious.
Smoky bacon, crispy Lincolnshire sausages, pork and pineapple stir fry, Korean Samgyeopsal barbecue… God, I’m dribbling on my keyboard already, is it lunch time yet?
Sadly for fans of the full English Breakfast and other craven carnivores like myself, industrial pig farming itself is a much less pretty thing to behold than the aforementioned dishes.
Rife with sickening dereliction of animal welfare, hugely polluting and frankly unsustainable, something has to change. Fast. For pork consumption is booming.
According to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, nearly 100 million metric tons of pork were consumed worldwide in 2006 alone and it’s been climbing since then as increasing urbanization and disposable income lead to a rapid rise in pork consumption in developing nations across the world.
It’s worth considering what this entails at the point of production: a brief insight into industrial pig farming courtesy of a story written for Rolling Stone a few years back”
Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pork processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year. That’s a number worth considering…
… Smithfield’s holding ponds — the company calls them lagoons — cover as much as 120,000 square feet. The area around a single slaughterhouse can contain hundreds of lagoons, some of which run thirty feet deep. The liquid in them is not brown. The interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs turn the lagoons pink.
Even light rains can cause lagoons to overflow; major floods have transformed entire counties into pig-shit bayous. To alleviate swelling lagoons, workers sometimes pump the shit out of them and spray the waste on surrounding fields, which results in what the industry daintily refers to as “overapplication.” This can turn hundreds of acres — thousands of football fields — into shallow mud puddles of pig shit. Tree branches drip with pig shit.
Some pig-farm lagoons have polyethylene liners, which can be punctured by rocks in the ground, allowing shit to seep beneath the liners and spread and ferment. Gases from the fermentation can inflate the liner like a hot-air balloon and rise in an expanding, accelerating bubble, forcing thousands of tons of feces out of the lagoon in all directions.
The lagoons themselves are so viscous and venomous that if someone falls in it is foolish to try to save him. A few years ago, a truck driver in Oklahoma was transferring pig shit to a lagoon when he and his truck went over the side. It took almost three weeks to recover his body. In another instance, a worker who was repairing a lagoon in Michigan was overcome by the fumes and fell in. His fifteen-year-old nephew dived in to save him but was overcome, the worker’s cousin went in to save the teenager but was overcome, the worker’s older brother dived in to save them but was overcome, and then the worker’s father dived in. They all died in pig shit.
There is moral in here somewhere isn’t there? Live by the pig, die by the pig perhaps… Facetiousness aside, although nobody experts a pig slaughterhouse to be the Elysian fields, the facts stand that keeping piggy wiggies in teeny weeny cages, pumping them full of antibiotics and growth hormones and using loads of land to do this all is neither an edifying spectacle nor good for human, hog or planet.
Which brings me, finally, to the point: there may be a solution other than opting for nuts and raisins, which I am in fact (half-heartedly) considering. And it is an elevated one. A well-regarded Dutch architectural firm, MDRDV, has spent four years creating a plan to build seventy six high-rise towers to house pigs. Here’s the Wiki:
In Pig City MVRDV proposes a novel way of accommodating the population of 15 million pigs that share the Netherlands with 15 million human inhabitants.
The prototype is an 80 meter high tower. Each level is divided into animal friendly farm areas… The biogas generated by the pigs’ waste is collected as a clean energy source; fish farms inside the towers provide animal food and help reduce transport. Precious countryside is liberated from the polluting bio-industry.
The proposal (which came to my attention after reading around this New York Times article on vertical/urban farming) was made several years back and apparently caused a real outcry in the Netherlands, where it was seen in no small part as an indictment of industrial farming and our consumption patterns rather than a genuine proposal. The Dutch Archined website summed it up thusly:
Why spend four years on this supposedly unfeasible project? Is Pig City an indictment of the bio-industry? Is this radical proposal and powerful visual presentation meant to inject life into a tiresome discussion?
Seen for what it is, Pig City is a cartoon-like representation of today’s situation and, unlike the secret bio-industry, makes no attempt to gloss over the consequences of our pattern of consumption. The presentation, for that matter, is so lifelike that many read it as a realistic alternative. And no doubt MVRDV would be the first to take on the job should it prove feasible.
It strikes me after looking at it more closely that MVRDV may also have been making a point about the failure of the government to provide nearly that level of eco-friendly architecture to humans, let alone pigs. There are many layers to this idea, all provocative in the best of ways. Food for Thought once more… For more on the debate and urban farming, check out The Vertical Farm Project. Until then, here’s some vegetarian recipes! Bon Appetit.
"The Living Skyscraper: Farming the Urban Skyline" by Blake Kurasekverticalfarm
Jamblichus takes his name from the 3rd c. philosopher who refused to separate soul from body, an early exponent of panentheism. Read Arturo Vasquez on the historical Iamblichus.
See also Evan Bromfield's research on urban vertical projects.

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