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Guerrilla Gardening: Growing Edmonton's Community

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  • Guerrilla Gardening: Growing Edmonton's Community

    Guerrilla Gardening: Growing Edmonton's Community
    Thursday July 10, 2008
    Dustin Bajer
    For the first time in history, more people in the world live in cities than the country. With each passing day we are increasingly an urban species. So it only seems reasonable that the solutions to many of the problems we've created and inherited will blossom from the world’s urban centres.

    The term “guerrilla gardening” was first introduced in the 1970s by the New York City-based group the Green Guerrillas. Since its inception, guerrilla gardening has spread around the world as a rapidly growing movement and is often defined as the act of gardening public space, with or without permission.

    Originally lured to guerrilla gardening with visions of running through dark alleyways, spade and seed bomb in hand, participants quickly discover that guerrilla gardening has a more serious side as well. In some ways, we're trying to return to a simpler time, a reconnection with the natural world and the processes surrounding us.

    Although technically illegal, guerrilla gardening addresses issues of community ownership, food security, biodiversity, native habitat and neighbourhood beautification. It is also a form of direct, non-violent action accessible to everyone … and fun to boot! Ultimately, the goal of guerrilla gardening is to change the way that people interact with each other, their environment and their community.

    Originally started in Edmonton as a Facebook group, the Edmonton Guerrilla Gardeners have since gained a lot of attention. With the hopes of improving our community, the group has undergone various plantings around Edmonton and the sowing of two vegetable gardens on land provided by the County of Strathcona (produce to be donated to those in need).

    Our first event reached a climax when two police officers approached us while we were planting vines along an abandoned lot. One officer politely questioned us while the other suggested we plant ivy.

    As time passes we hope to see the Edmonton guerrilla gardening community grow both in size and impact. We'd love to reach a point when gardening boulevards and back alleys becomes a common and accepted community activity. When aware of the possibilities, it's baffling to realize how much of our cityscape could be put to better use, and to wonder what that might look like. Would you support a vegetable patch in your boulevard?

    “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they shall never sit in.” - Greek ProverbWe welcome the open discussion of your concerns, comments, and ideas, and encourage people interested in Guerrilla Gardening to visit our Blog, Facebook group, and contact us by email; news and events are posted regularly.

    -- Dustin Bajer
    Last edited by PrincessAngel; 10-07-2008, 09:02 AM.

  • #2
    ^ Interesting topic.

    I take issue with "technically illegal" being glossed over though.

    The practice is illegal period, nothing technical about it.

    There are many LEGAL community endeavours that address issues such as community ownership, food security, biodiversity, native habitat and neighbourhood beautification.

    Communities in Bloom, the many Co-ops that operate...


    • #3
      True, Guerrilla Gardening is illegal. I do, however, find it unlikely that we'd be arrested and charged for our good intentions.

      I would like to add that the Guerrilla Gardeners are more than willing to pursue legal avenues of action. We're not radicals and you'll never see us pie Ed Stelmach (even though some may like to at times) as we're looking to create bridges not burn them. If the city is willing to give us an empty lot, fantastic, we'd gladly accept. However, if the "owner" of an abandoned and unkept lot isn't willing to put energy and care into the property, we would be. We're not rearranging intersections here, we're planting petunias, growing produce for the food bank, and trying to inspire people to retake responsibility for their communities.


      • #4
        ^ I highly doubt that charges would ever be laid as well. Nor do I necessarily think any guerrilla gardeners should be (charged or even investigated).

        The lot owners should be charged, for failing to keep up with their property and for the beautifications done.

        I cannot ever condone any illegal activity however well intentioned, necessary or how much I personally agree with the activity. It becomes a slippery slope…


        • #5
          Originally posted by DebraW View Post

          I cannot ever condone any illegal activity however well intentioned, necessary or how much I personally agree with the activity. It becomes a slippery slope…

          A far more slippery slope is automatically agreeing/following laws simply because they are laws.


          • #6
            ^ No, illegal is illegal. Change must happen within the boundaries of the (present) law -- always.

            Demonstrations, petitions and calls for reform are the only avenues that I would ever follow to change something I do not think should be illegal.

            The slippery slope slides right into anarchism otherwise and I will not accept that.

            Back to the topic of guerilla gardening.

            I am interested in knowing what areas of Edmonton the guerilla gardners think is most in need of this practice? Downtown, eastend or all over and everywhere in Edmonton?


            • #7
              And crops?(while your asking)
              Still waiting for the Arlington site to be reborn .......


              • #8
                Yes, and crops!


                • #9
                  I suppose you would have been one of those yelling at Ms Parks to get off the bus. How sad.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by PrincessAngel View Post
                    ... Would you support a vegetable patch in your boulevard?
                    -- Dustin Bajer
                    could i mow it? i'm not sure i would want to eat anything knowing what the city and "passersby" have put on it.

                    we have some guerilla gardening in our community - typically sun flowers and annuals between the road or land and the chain link fencing ( ) surrounding some of our park and school yard spaces. pretty harmless for the most part and for the most part done with the tacit if not explicit support of the owner (the city) through the community league or school.

                    however, without at least that "tacit" support (which i would infer as imposing "technical legality" as opposed to labouring under "technical illegality") i have a hard time with it. at what point is guerilla gardening different from guerilla art (i.e. graffiti)? if you don't own it and you don't rent it and you don't have permission to use it, you have no right to do so. good intentions are insufficient in my opinion - and who is to say that the dirt you have absconded to provide vegetables for the food bank is not contaminated? and who is responsible if it is?

                    there is probably more "dirt" available that would come with consent than you could till - it seems to me that what would be missing is the modicum of additional work that would be required to obtain that consent. maybe like guerilla art, the gardening part just wouldn't be as attractive without that guerilla component?
                    "If you did not want much, there was plenty." Harper Lee


                    • #11
                      Where do I sign up?


                      • #12
                        No, I would not have been one of those who hassled Rosa Parks. To suggest such a thing of me (or anyone) is offensive.

                        I would (am) one of those with Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, the Vaniers et al. advocating/requiring change in a peaceful and law abiding manner.

                        If you would like to make anymore comments in this ilk please start a new thread or pm me as I would be happy (and am more than up to it) to continue that discussion.

                        However, in this thread I would like to learn more about guerilla gardening.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by LindseyT View Post
                          I suppose you would have been one of those yelling at Ms Parks to get off the bus. How sad.
                          apples and oranges lindseyt (which may be closer to belonging in this thread than it should). rosa's actions were the antithesis of anything "guerilla". in more ways than one, her actions were up front and she was prepared for the consequences, not hiding from them. and there is a very big difference between expropriating one's rights and someone elses property regardless of how you try and camouflage or blur the difference.
                          "If you did not want much, there was plenty." Harper Lee


                          • #14
                            But you said illegal is illegal Deb. And you made it very clear that "changes must happen within the law-always".

                            With out people pushing "unjustified laws or rules" discussion rarely takes place. Sometimes they are rediculed for being extreme and status quo remains, or discussion of merrit takes place, ie ken bringing up contamination issues and a healthy public discussion follows.

                            fact is, had these Guerrilla Gardeners spent years taking up this issue through legal means people (like us) would not be informed of their fight. Which juding by the responses so far seems like one people are interested in joining and because of that it's legality should be questioned.


                            • #15
                              In response to the safety of GG produce.

                              We currently have two garden plots, both of them in a community garden donated to us by the County of Strathcona. So we're quite sure that they are poison free. In the future, we would like to experiment more with vegetable gardening on vacant lots and/or peoples backyards/boulevards in the city with the consent of the owners.

                              The Edmonton Guerrilla gardeners have been quite open with the public and the city of Edmonton. We're not trying to hide what we're doing or step on anyones toes, we're not looking for confrontations but a grass roots community approach to evoking change.

                              It's true that planting anywhere is a slippery slope and we exercise a lot of constraint in where and what we plant, and choose to not hide what we're doing. We're not digging up sidewalks or private yards. Yes, ultimately, we're walking a fine line.

                              One project we're very interested in pursuing is the creation of an Edmonton Green-Map. The map, available online, would aid people in locating edible fruit trees all over the city. A criminal activity? Of course, we might be encouraged to plant an apple tree of our own, there are many safe, suitable, non invasive, non obstructive, public places within the city to do so.