Recently, GAF London went out for a session of guerrilla gardening. Like many green spaces in London, we saw a small plot of land that wasn’t being used for anything useful. Instead left barely maintained. We envision a world where communities grow stronger and autonomous by developing a mutually beneficial relationship with the land on which they live, tending to it and enjoying the riches it has to offer. The global chain of food distribution is ecologically unsustainable and based on the exploitation of the global south. The alienation from our own environment has damaged our relationship with nature and with each other. We must rebuild them if we want to create a better world in which future generations may be able to live.
The benefits of urban gardening are multiple. There is the practical: research has shown that growing fruit and vegetables in just 10 per cent of a city’s green spaces could provide enough for 15 per cent of the population. And this is without even using permaculture techniques! There is the personal: research has also shown the positive effects of gardening on people’s emotional well-being, especially in the case of women or people on low incomes. There is the social: common projects like communal gardens help foster stronger community links and resilience, becoming places were people can meet their neighbours, learn useful skills and empower themselves to self-organise and become self-sufficient. And this is without mentioning the health or environmental benefits.
In GAF London, we believe in making our means fit our ends, using direct action to create the future we want to see in the now, “acting as if one is already free” as David Graeber would put it. That’s why we didn’t beg the council or any authorities to do it for us or give us permission. We saw an opportunity to put our ideas into practice and we got digging.
First, we cleaned all the garbage that had accumulated. Then, we started digging out the weeds while respecting the existing plants. The soil turned out to be more fertile than we initially thought, with many worms living in it. Next, we dug the paths, added compost and planted seeds of lettuce and onion, which will grow over the winter. Finally, we added some signs and a stone path to make it look more friendly and approachable.
As we were working, we talked with some curious neighbours, who were quite happy with what we were doing. One of them in particular lamented the state of disuse in which the plot had been left and was glad someone was doing something about it. Given that, now that we have the experience to know we can do this successfully, we will continue reaching out to the people in the area to get them involved. As that’s fundamental for the garden to succeed in the long-term. We will continue to look after the garden over the months to come and hopefully start many others. So if you want to get involved, contact us and start taking action right now. Or if you want to support us so we can continue doing these and other actions in the future, consider donating to help us get the tools we need.
But more importantly, take action by yourself. Every day we walk by the streets of our cities and villages disillusioned by the state of things and the passivity of people. But you don’t have to accept the world as it is. Instead, look around your neighbourhood and find a patch of unused land. Knock on your neighbour’s door and get them involved. Borrow or steal some tools and seeds, look up some tutorials and get going. We don’t need governments, parties, or leaders. We need a decentralised movement of autonomous yet interconnected communities and individuals acting to create a better world around them. Every mighty tree begins as a single seed. Start sowing.
P.S: if you take gardening actions under the GAF banner, send us photos and reports so other people can be inspired by them. Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org