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I remember the day my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Burkett, told my class about Johnny Appleseed. I couldn’t relate to him, at all. I tried to imagine actually meeting a real person who wore a cooking pot on his head like a hat and scattered apple tree seeds everywhere he went. I remember thinking, “If I’d actually met him, I would’ve thought he was nuts. But it’s super cool that he left a trail of abundance in his wake.”
Much of what I learned about Johnny Appleseed was fiction. Even so, there are plenty of amazing people who are carrying out his seed-scattering legacy today.
In this age, we call them guerrilla gardeners. Ron Finley, one of the leaders of this movement, gave an excellent TED talk explaining what he does and why he does it.
Of course, there’s a big difference between Johnny Appleseed and today’s guerrilla gardeners. Johnny Appleseed was a nurseryman, and guerrilla gardeners are shovel-toting revolutionaries. As a group, they’re not out to topple governments, but they don’t mind breaking a city ordinance or neighborhood HOA rule when there’s land that needs tending.
Mr. Finley, who lives in South Central Los Angeles, became a guerrilla gardener because he wanted to turn that area – a food desert – into an oasis. So many in his neighborhood were sick because they were subsisting on fast food and soda; fresh, healthy produce was a rarity in that area. Finley noted a common sense solution to the problem: all around him, there was neglected, public land on which to grow the fruits and veggies missing from their diets.
Some choose guerrilla gardening because they want to beautify their cities, while others do it as an act of civil disobedience.
Photo from focallocal.org, Photographer unknown. Please contact us if you know the artist. Flower garden in a newspaper stand
In some situations, guerrilla gardeners carry out clandestine operations under the cover of darkness. In others, secrecy may not be necessary because property owners or city officials support operations. In Finley’s case, he encountered trouble when he first started gardening. Eventually, he gained the backing of his Congressman, and the rules blocking his public gardens were overturned.
Is Guerrilla Gardening a Good Idea?
I love that there are people out there who want to step up and make trash land productive. I like that there are people who are willing to take risks in order to do what they believe to be right, people who see problems and enact solutions, even at the threat of punishment. World-changers are generally built of such stock.
As with everything, though, effective guerrilla gardeners must consider the unique variables of each situation. There’s still room for ethics even when rules are broken.
A few questions to consider when deciding if, when and where to guerrilla garden:
What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to make an anti-authoritarian statement, even if it means your plants will simply be torn up or trampled down? Or, do you want to fundamentally change the rules for public land usage in your area? If you have a shot of changing the way things are done in your city, take some time to carefully consider your garden location, presentation and the way it will be perceived by locals and officials. Rally the support of neighbors. Draft petitions to present to municipal leaders.
Are you benefitting your neighbors? In some cases, the vacant land you have your eye on belongs to your neighbors, not the city. Will the mind if you use it? Can you ask permission?
Do you know what seeds to grow in your area? Whether you’re throwing seed bombs or planting a garden, it’s important to stay away from invasives or noxious plants that will hurt your local ecosystem.
The best way to support the health of the guerrilla gardening movement is to approach decisions with respect for neighbors, local wildlife and, as much as possible, local authorities. With that said, viva la garden revolution!
What do you think about guerrilla gardening? Please let me know in the comments section below!
Warning: Check local ordinances to see whether your garden is legal. In some municipalities, your plan may be against the law, while in others, it may not. We do not advocate breaking the law.
From Food Revolution Network: Richard Branson has announced that he’s given up beef. Here’s why, in his own words (originally published on virgin.com).
For the last few months, I have given up what was previously one of my favourite foods: beef. Eating less red meat can be healthier, better for the environment and – surprisingly to me – really easy to do so.
Sometimes it seems like much of our food is stuck in a cycle of excessive production and excessive consumption. However as a wonderful lady called Christina from James Cameron’s foundation explained to me, there are simple changes we can make in our everyday life that could have an impact.
Meat consumption today contributes to global warming and environmental degradation. It’s estimated that 14.5% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock – which is more than the contribution from all forms of transport. Beef production makes up 41% of those emissions.
Last year, Brazil reported a 28% increase in Amazonian deforestation – 80% of deforested land in Brazil is then used for cattle farming. This results in a huge loss of biodiversity. Modern beef farming is also a huge drain on water resources. A 2010 study calculated that it takes 1799 gallons of water to make just 1 lb of beef.
But it is possible to change. Reducing meat consumption is a growing trend, driven by health and environmental considerations. A switch to a ‘healthy diet’ as recommended by Harvard Medical School – which still includes eating meat, fish and eggs – would reduce GHG emissions from food production by 36%. The Norwegian military announced it is switching to a one-day-a-week vegetarian diet in a move to combat global warming, while even in the US consumption of red-meat is falling.
“And as for yours truly, I feel healthier, more active and by making my diet more varied I never feel like I’m missing out on anything. Stopping eating beef has also had a knock-on effect on the rest of my diet, and I am eating less.”
Cattle and other livestock don’t have to be environmentally harmful. Cows, pigs, sheep and chickens did not evolve to be shoved in a large, dark warehouse and pumped full of feed. Grass-fed cattle raised on pasture need much smaller resource inputs. And as people like Earth Challenge finalist Allan Savory have shown, livestock, if managed properly, can even restore degraded land.
In the longer term, as Bill Gates recently highlighted, there is also great potential for advances in fields like synthetic meat. And there are other more sources of efficient protein; like insects! But in a world where more people are now dying from obesity than malnutrition – when hundreds of millions of people still don’t have enough to eat – and when it’s estimated that 70% more food will be needed by 2050, we can’t solve this problem by simply continuing to make ‘conventional’ intensive farming more intensive. And reducing our consumption would reduce the need for these industries to keep up with that demand.
Persuading people to give up meat altogether is very difficult, but persuading meat eaters to cut out beef is realistic. Do you think you could cut out beef from your diet, or are you already vegetarian/vegan? Let us know your views.