Remake the 'village' within the city

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

village_within_the_city_AntwerpThe city is the city and the village is the village, I can hear some readers now think, and never the twain shall meet, bar with the city expanding and swallowing up the surrounding countryside and its villages.

But the true village is a community and it is that that every city block, every town ward and every housing estate needs to become if we are to bring sanity and sustainability into our urban and suburban areas.

As we cannot all live in the countryside on smallholdings and homesteads we must make the city into a place where we can live a sustainable life as self-reliant, in community, as possible. And to that extent we must remake the village in our urban and suburban environments.

Most of today's cities, especially in Europe, as the New World is a little different, came together – often not always voluntarily – out of villages, more or less, originally. The City of London, for instance, was just what today is still referred to as the “square mile”. Other parts were once outside the city (walls) and were villages, basically.

The Tower Hamlets, as the Borough that bears that name, alludes to this in the very word “hamlet” (small village) and they were the places where artisans and craftspeople lived and worked who were not and could not be in the Guilds, for instance, such as Gypsies, Jews, Huguenots, etc., and there were also farms and market gardens.

Today that kind of village in the city may not – entirely – be feasible but, nevertheless, structures of a village with even market gardens, urban farms of the modern organic and permaculture kind, and community gardens on every estate and in every ward, together with places and shops for all kinds of artisans and craftspeople, micro-breweries, pubs, etc., must be made possible.

In the same way as the Transition Movement has now realized and come to understand that change – transition – must be created at a much more local level, that of the street, it can also bring the village into our urban environment. In the same way as transition cannot be achieved overnight, so to speak, for an entire town let alone a city, remaking the village can only be done in steps, street by street, block by block, ward by ward.

With remaking the village in the city we can make our urban and suburban areas sustainable and also move towards Zero Waste, as discussed in Paul Connett's book “The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet one Community at a Time” published October 2013 by Chelsea Green.

Remaking the village in the city will turn urban areas into livable communities that can be self-supporting on all levels, as far as possible. Like total self-sufficiency for the individual or homestead is not possible neither is it possible for any village, in the city or without, to be entirely self-sufficient and self-contained. But self-reliance for a community and self-supporting for such a “place” can be achievable.

© 2014