Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gardening for Resilience

We have such a deeply ingrained urge to cultivate. Maybe one day they'll find a genome for it! The second last chapter of Stewart Brand's book, Whole Earth Discipline, is called: "It's All Gardening". He writes: "Ecosystem engineering is an ancient art, practiced and malpracticed by every human society since the mastery of fire. We would be fools to repeat their mistakes and just as foolish to ignore some of the brilliant practices that worked for them."

How should we be gardening today?

We are facing unprecedented challenges. The ways we choose to garden will have an impact on our resilience in the face of climate change. We should be gardening for biodiversity, for local and sustainable food, for sustainable water and for zero waste. Here's an example of a folly in my home city, Cape Town:

- a rose garden in the showpiece Company Gardens - Why? It even gets a mention on the city's "green map". Why? The Cape Town city and environs is blessed to be home to one of the unique floral kingdoms of the world. The smallest floral kingdom in the world in terms of space but the second most diverse in terms of species - and that's second only to the Amazonian floral kingdom that spans multiple countries and continents. Why aren't we proudly growing our native flora in our showpiece urban garden? Why are we growing roses?

It's time - let's grow for food and biodiversity. Let us plant native plants and restore our biodiversity. Let us plant for food and create an urban foodshed. Let us get off the train at the new revamped Cape Town station and pick a banana or an orange on the way to work. Let us plant an Erica or Buchu on our balcony and feed a butterfly and a bee.

Let the landscapers give up on the hungry lawns and sterile exotic palms. Let us create food-rich, nature-rich local environments that make us strong.