– by Bruce Mason –
Awakened people wonder what individual actions will most impact the climate change ecocide that is killing life on our planet. We take tiny, solitary steps with our own carefully reduced carbon footprints. We march in protest with growing anger, and in growing numbers that include futureless children. But too often we give in to rampant, short-sighted despair. And rightly so, since whatever individuals do at this very late date seems utterly inadequate to the challenge of our wide awake, nightmare reality.
However in our hands, hearts and soil, we all hold our great re-awakening and best hope.
It’s simple. Natural. We did it for 7 thousand years as a basic daily act of survival. And now, once again, we must garden as if our lives, our families and democracy depend on it. Because they most likely do.
We’ve been warned it will take collective effort equal to, or greater than, World War II to turn our grave existential threat around. Then as now, the Victory Garden is a powerful weapon. Even the ever Johnny-come-lately United States produced 40 percent of its wartime food from individual gardens.
It now turns out that the ultimate act of rebellion is to feed yourself. Gardening is the most direct, possibly only, way to dismantle the whole top-down system. Growing your own vegetables keeps your money away from big business which, with corrupt politicians and media, created and perpetuate this unprecedented mess. If they can’t make you a slave for your own food, they have far less leverage to own you.
In fact, Thomas Jefferson believed that true democracy requires 20 percent of citizens to be self-sufficient. This enables them to be real dissenters, free to voice opinions and beliefs, without obligation to those who would threaten their survival.
Too many of us put our faith and fate in unknown technology, forgetting that growing food comprises the original solar technology. Plants use the energy of sunlight, and through the process of photosynthesis, capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and release oxygen.
We have been conned into believing more food can be produced with less effort with the addition of fossil-fuel-driven machinery, lots of nitrogen fertilizer, and deadly chemical pesticides. The result: one calorie of food energy in a typical diet requires 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to plant, grow and bring to your table. The way we currently feed ourselves – or enable ourselves to be fed – accounts for one-fifth of the greenhouse gas for which each of us is responsible.
Where to start? Plant a tree. Everyone can do it and scientists now say that may save us. Forest restoration can buy time for us to cut our carbon emissions, and is the best climate change solution available. And Canada is one of six countries – with Russia, the US, Australia, Brazil and China – with the most potential, because so much of our once-existing precious forests, home to million of rapidly disappearing species, have been removed.
A tree is a start, one part of the New Victory Garden revolution to transform and deepen our connection to nature, which we have lost at our peril. But when push comes to shove, food comes first and everyone has the right to feed themselves and their family.
Time to protest by picking up shovels and hoes – and gardening. There are a plethora of how-to guides to get you going.
The idea is to find one thing to do in your life that doesn’t involve spending or voting. Your garden – whatever size – may not rock the world or go viral. But it will be real, particular, symbolic, inspiring, and offer enormous, endless rewards.
Gardening teaches that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun shines, as long as people plan, plant, think and do, if we bother to try, we can find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing our lives and the world.
It’s virtually impossible to despair with your hands working in soil, or while biting into a sun warmed tomato. Reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but just as importantly, shrink your dependence.
Wendell Berry wrote: “Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.”
Overgrow the system by planting a tree and your own vision of a Victory Garden. Produce rather consume. It’s the antidote to despair, something you can count on to nourish and heal.
Bruce Mason is a former head-writer for the Vancouver Show, a Province newspaper columnist, national radio executive producer, communications officer at SFU and UBC, and author of the book, Our Clinic: Visionary Health Care, Fundraising and and Community Building on Gabriola Island.