Monday, August 15, 2011

Ethics: Is urban foraging theft?

I remember reading a story last year about people in urban areas deliberately living off of the food they can find in dumpsters, not because they can’t afford better, but because it’s a sort of game and environmental exercise to them. Now, according to this fascinating story in the New York Times today, it seems people have recently started scavenging food from public places, such as fruit trees in parks or streets. Well, with all the vacant/foreclosed homes, there are a lot of unharvested vegetables and fruit, and some people are now taking to taking them from such private properties as well. So the question is whether any of this constitutes theft. The banks certainly wouldn’t permit it, but that might be for liability or paperwork reasons. It is private property, meaning that it is trespassing to pick it, and at least not their own. What might a cop do if he caught you in this situation? Isn’t it dumb to let it just go to waste? How might the principle of gleaning in the Bible be relevant here, if it is?