Anarchism and Community gardening
Around the world food prices are going up as employment rates are going down and rich western countries are beginning to experience shortages in some staples. What we are seeing at the moment though is only the beginning of a very long period of energy descent as more and more global consumers compete for a limited amount of oil. As our economy and food supply is built upon the continuous use of cheap oil the effects of rising prices will have a dramatic effect on the way we live. I think that as living standards fall in the west we will see greater opportunities for anarchist organising
To me anarchism is a rejection of all coercive forms of Authority and a move towards greater individual and communal autonomy. I see gardening and community gardening as a powerful tool for practicing non coercive community organising, challenging our current notions of private property and meeting some our needs. Setting up and running a garden is far easier than attempting to start a worker run workplace but allows for many of the skills to be used and provides some the same benefits.
Community gardening provides a way for us to work together voluntarily and share the harvest. It also allows us some control over one of the larger parts of our lives how we get the food we need to survive. Instead of buying and eating foods which reinforce corporate control we can grow and eat food which builds community resiliency and health. By using space which would normally be seen as private or unproductive we can challenge current notions around private property and what public space can be used for. By involving the community in this we give ourselves a tool to spread our philosophy and to build support for other campaigns.
Most of our campaigns have little real effect on our day to day lives or the lives of people living in our communities. I think this is one of the major reasons for burnout as our successes do not directly affect us and the problems we are fighting are always at a bigger scale than we can directly change. Add to this the fact that much of the work we do is around violent struggle and I think its obvious why more people don't become involved. To become a threat to those in power we must become relevant to those around us. The solutions we offer must appear achievable and more attractive than the consumerist dream offered in our society.
Of course a few community gardens alone wont bring down capitalism but it could be an important way for us to put our beliefs into practice and to show our communities that there are many different ways of organising our lives. If nothing else more gardens would give us healthy free food and an opportunity to build something positive.
So how do we do it?
The easiest place to start gardening is in your yard, if you have grass cover it with paper for a few months add some compost and put some veggies in. If you have concretes you can easily grow herbs like rosemary and thyme as well as most veggies in pots. Once you have some practical experience growing food it will be much easier to do it in a larger scale. Auckland only has a couple of community gardens and none of these are producing very much food at the moment so I think we urgently need more. Auckland City Council policy is encouraging of community gardens so it is possible that we could get official approval to start up gardens. The other faster and probably more empowering way would be to identify space either owned by individuals or institutions that isn't going to be developed urgently and then starting gardens there.
Whatever form of gardening we get involved in I think it must be tied strongly to the community it is in if we are serious about building autonomous communities. Having local support is also incredibly important if the possibility exists that we may be evicted from whatever land we end up using.