Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maya Khankhoje: Review of David Tracey's Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto

(Courtesy of Danny Mayer)

Sowing content: Digging deep to find your radical planter within. Be prepared to get your hands dirty
by Maya Khankhoje

Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto, by David Tracey (New Society Publishers, 2007; $23.95)

THE CONVENTIONAL army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.
—Henry Kissinger

Guerrilla gardening can be summarily defined as gardening in public urban spaces with or without permission. Gardening by the citizens, that is, by urban guerrillas intent, not on destroying the status quo as such but on restoring the web of life that the status quo has been destroying so wantonly. Why do these citizens feel such a sense of urgency? Consider the following:

The earth is cultivated more than ever before…swamps are drying up and cities are springing up at an unprecedented scale. We have become a burden to our planet. Resources are becoming scarce and soon nature will no longer be able to satisfy our needs.

This pressing concern was voiced by Quintus Septimus Tertullian more than 2,200 years ago. This is the very same concern that has spurred urban guerrillas of a gentler, albeit no less radical bend of mind than armed guerrillas, to engage in urban gardening tactics, risking fines and imprisonment. These include fly-by-night plantings in urban wastelands, lobbing “seed grenades” into fenced-off empty lots, planting trees in the middle of nowhere, covering traffic circles with native ground cover, sowing edible plants in school-yards, draping lamp posts with decorative creepers, developing community gardens and empowering disaffected youth by reintroducing them to the joys of dirtying one’s hands in the soil. The list is as boundless as any warrior’s imagination.

The police, supermarkets, developers and constipated city councillors are often not amused. Some, however, are ultimately inducted into the process.

What is the city but the people?—Shakespeare in “Coriolanus”

David Tracey, a journalist and environmental designer based in Vancouver, speaks from hands-on experience as executive director of Tree City, an engaged ecology group helping citizens plant and care for the urban forest. In his excellent manualfesto – both political and practical as the name implies — he traces the history of this movement and offers practical guidelines on how to join it, even as a lone planter of the Johnny Appleseed ilk. He does, however, caution readers that loners might get a task done very efficiently but seldom generate greater group participation. This is why he advocates organized group action.

To Read the Rest of the Review

Want to do your own Guerrilla Gardening--check out these tips from GuerrillaGardening.org

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