Saturday, 21 March 2009
The top seven reasons to create a community garden in your neighbourhood
1 – It gives us healthy food.
Food should be a delight to make, cook and eat, but for many of us food has become a source of fear and guilt. Listen to the news and you start to wonder if everything is not toxic, diseased, fattening or has some other problem. The food we eat is often bred and treated for length of storage, not nutrition or taste, and much of that is processed into forms – breakfast cereal instead of wheat, vegetable soup mix instead of vegetables – that are less efficient and healthy.
So, as the good people we are, we create campaigns for healthy diets, fair trade products, local food, organic produce. All these are valuable movements, but then we must navigate all manner of product claims, and feel like we have to choose between the fair trade, organic dish or the locally-grown, low-carbon one.
There is one way, though, to make our food fair trade, locally-grown, organic and zero-carbon all at the same time: grow it ourselves.
2 – It is enjoyable.
Gardening is the number-one hobby in the Western world, and can be done by small children and the elderly alike. It is amazing how many people think of making their own food as a chore or a sign of poverty, instead of liberating outdoor fun. There is something gratifying about working, rather than working out -- in measuring a afternoon’s labour in bushels and baskets rather than forms filled or data entered.
3 – It saves fossil fuels.
Most readers of this blog are already aware that crops are sown with oil-powered tractors, fertilized with fossil-fuel chemicals, harvested with oil-powered tractors, and shipped thousands of miles to Ireland. The global economic crash has brought the price of oil down for the moment, but that may not last – oil production is still stalled, as it has been for the last several years.
4 – It doesn't worsen climate change.
Shipping food 10,000 kilometres creates enormous carbon emissions; walking 10,000 centimetres to your plot is as zero-carbon as you can get.
5 – It uses our green space.
Find an aerial view of your area -- look on Google Maps under "sattelite" and find your address -- and see how much is green space. Knowing that an acre of land, in many areas, can feed a family of four for a year, imagine how many of the world's overshoot population could be fed by this green space -- Australian ecologist David Holmgren has calculated that the cities of Australia could feed their own population and become net food exporters to rural areas if necessary.
Right now, all those lawns, greens and parks must be maintained continuously, at the expense of your time or tax dollars, to be trimmed, sprayed and kept as monotonous grass that is used for nothing. What would be cheaper, more productive and more beautiful – a flat green or a beautiful expanse of blossoms and berries?
6 - It builds back the soil.
In many parts of the world, where we have destroyed the original woodlands and maintained the soil with chemicals, the topsoil has become progressively thinner over time. Organic gardening and composting build back topsoil, reversing the process. Imagine all the kitchen waste and humanure created by all the homes in your area combined, and how quickly we could build back the soil if we used these resources.
7 – It brings people together.
How many of your neighbours to you know, and how many of them know each other? The days of poker nights, Knights of Columbus or picnics are dim memories among the elderly -- many people today trade only a few niceties over the fence before resuming their suspcious resentment.
Of course we are all divided by interests, religions, politics and who knows what, but we don't all have to become intimates, we just have to be able to get certain key people in the community involved in common projects. A garden on the vacant lot would be visible to everyone, and yield tangible rewards. Not everyone wants to hear about Ghawar or clathrates -- but we all like eating.
Photo: Pea vines, courtesy of IndyMedia Portland's web site.