Originally published on April 12, 2019
Author Benjamin Vogt
Can gardens literally save the world?
Benjamin Vogt explains why his answer is "no" in today's excerpt from his book A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future.
Excerpt from the Introduction
No. Even if they are linked together to create some new hybrid habitat — even if that habitat is mostly native plants — gardens won’t make more than a dent in the thriving ecology of other cultures. But gardens are far from powerless; in fact, I believe they are a lynchpin to greater steps — from alternative energy to permaculture — that will save the world.
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Gardens can save the world by saving us. They can bring us back into contact with diversity. They can do what landscape architects like Olmsted envisioned: bring different cultures together in an open, democratic space to share their lives and learn from one another so that they might grow stronger together. Gardens in our back and front yards, gardens along urban streets, gardens in suburban parks, gardens surrounding schools and churches and corporate headquarters. Gardens buzzing and humming and rustling, forming connected highways of mammals and birds and pollinators and microbes. Gardens that heal our broken bonds to nature and to one another. Gardens as activism as surely as any art form, and as surely as any mercy we might bestow on one another in times of sorrow or anger. Gardens that stir our senses and give us actionable faith and hope.
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Photo by Jeanne Blanche on Unsplash
I don’t want to always feel better in my garden. I don’t want to be healed. I need my pain. I need my anger. These emotions are not enemies but indicators of empathy and compassion. They let me know the depth of my feeling and the power of all life struggling for justice and equality. If I deny the full feeling of my being, I deny the full power of my ability to comprehend and live in a thriving world. Science tells me we are made of the same stuff, that we all speak a similar language. Religion tells me the divine, the numinous, is breathed into every life and landscape. My nature is a nature of defiance for the bonds we break between us in the name of power or personal liberty. My freedom is based in the freedom of other species and other places, even if I never see them. This is why native plant gardens matter more than we may want to know.
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