Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Guerrilla Gardeners Seek To Beautify Deteriorating Cityscapes

Environmentalists are fighting a different kind of battle in cities across the earth. Their battle isn't against religious extremism or any kind of organized army. Armed with seeds and soil, they scan the urban terrain they inhabit. They level their sight picture on areas they deem abandoned, neglected, or misused. They then transform the space into productivity and beauty via covert gardening.

This insurgency is called guerrilla gardening. The term was first recorded in 1973, used by Liz Christy. Her Green Guerrilla group transformed a private lot into a garden in New York City. The concept is not entirely new as some guerrilla gardeners contend that they are merely a continuance of a long line of surreptitious gardeners to include Johnny Appleseed. Guerrilla gardening is also known as bewildering. This term is used by an Australian gardener named Bob Crombie for the same type of practice.

You can read about some of his interesting actions at the following link: [http://www.smh.com.au/news/environment/on-the-verge-of-a-revolution/2008/02/19/1203190824164.html]

A large contingent of guerrilla gardeners exists in England. Some groups fuse their gardening with political causes and activism. One example occurred in May 1996 when 500 activists took over 13 acres of land owned by the Guinness company in South London. They gardened there in protest of what they felt was misuse of urban land by the Guinness company.

Richard Reynolds initiated http://www.guerrillagardening.org/ in 2004. What began as a blog became a book called On Guerrilla Gardening. The book covers guerrilla-style gardening in more than 30 countries.

Controversial-sounding tools of this trade are called seed-bombs. These are military-named ways to deliver plant seeds. Some seed-bombs are biodegradable balloons that house helium and plant seeds left at the mercy of the wind, seeds and compost packed into biodegradable pill capsules that are thrown or fired from a “specially adapted air rifle” for accuracy, eggs that are drained of their yolks and replaced by peat and seeds for easy throwing, grenade-shaped combinations of compost, seed, and recycled paper that were created by a Scottish guerilla gardener, and clay soil, compost, and seed blends that are molded into various shapes including those of handguns.

In an age where dirty bombs are a valid and terrifying concern, one wonders somewhat about the judgment of these environmentalists, although they seem well-intentioned. One wonders why visionary city government and business leaders couldn’t collaborate with skilled, concerned gardeners to increase beauty and productivity. One wonders why an "insurgency" is even required. Resorting to the use of frightening military language and violence-shaped seed packages appear needlessly extreme when a collaborative experience could sow seed not merely of asparagus, flowers, and lettuce heads, but of neighborhood pride, community responsibility, and urban beautification.

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