Althoughthese examples appear more ‘top down’ than demonstrative of Lefebvre’s call forurban dwellers to assert their ‘rights to the city’, they raise the followingquestions regarding the long-term implications of community-councilpartnerships, where alternative spaces become appropriated under the purview ofcity bylaws. This ‘appropriation’ may appear contradictory to core ideas inradical urban theory, the linking of local government—its resources andpolicymaking for structural change—with grassroots social production is perhapsa necessity to imagine a more sustainable urban future. In any case, urbanagriculture is one form of social transformation taking place in ‘North andSouth’ cities.
Government, or official, support for hitherto grassrootsmovements for socioeconomic change can be beneficial through removinglegislative barriers and providing infrastructure improvements and upgrades. However, there is the hypotheticalpossibility that government involvement could be viewed as ‘interfering’ withactually existing alternative social spaces, which prefer to operateindependently from bureaucracies attempting to regulate ‘radical’ activities.It could be that socially re-produced spaces could re-emerge elsewhere in thecity, in reaction to undesired bureaucratic influences seeking to normalisehitherto ‘alternative’ responses to the global food system. This leads to aninteresting question of what happens to alternative social movements when theybecome ‘mainstream’? As Crane et al.,(2013) suggest, these are questions ideal for critical urban geographers andradical social scientists, to take up the notion of collective urban rights andtheir potential power. Analyses of urban agriculture through the lens ofLefebvrian spatial production can advance critical understandings ofalternative spatial production and the implications of its mainstreamappropriation by the city (or state) for purposes of reinventing the city. Urban agriculture and the globalised food systemInterestin human and natural ecosystems as vital for urban sustainability are partlyinfluenced by rapid growth in community-based ‘urban greening’ movementsconcerned with social, economic, environmental and food justice. For urban dwellers in low-income areas,globally, urban agriculture appears as a defiant act and symbolic of thefailure of urban industrialism and the globalized food system.
For urban foodsocial movements, city planning has largely suppressed the development of urbanagricultural activities, which is symptomatic of the tensions between actuallyexisting neoliberalism and socially lived space. When alternative social spacesare integrated into mainstream urban planning as community developmentinitiatives, what then happens to the meaning and purpose of the ‘alternativemovement’? In zoning for urban agriculture, are rights to the cityacknowledged and imagined urban geographies accepted and acted upon thustransforming or reordering urban spaces and reproducing social relations? Or dothese relations become normalised, thus control and power in the use of urbanfood space continues as actual existing neoliberalism? Reconciling tensions inthe contradiction between neoliberalism and alternatives might be possiblethrough close community-driven consultation with their local councils.