After making a number of requests over the years to see if anyone was interested in setting up a community garden on my allotment, and not really getting anywhere, it finally dawned on me that it makes more sense to simply have a workday on the allotment and invite people along to help clear the scrub, make some vegetable beds and plant some of their own seeds. If nobody turns up, you’re at least no worse off. I inadvertently chose the last Saturday in March – the day for Earthhour – and it turned out to be a great success. With eight adults and six kids we got through a lot of work and had a real fun day. We cleared almost all of the land that needed to be cleared and made a number of vegetable beds, some of which were planted up, and some of which will be offered to one or two people who couldn’t make it on the day. We provided some splendid Nepalese food for lunch, courtesy of our Nepalese domestic helper, and everyone, as far as I could tell, had a thoroughly enjoyable day. It was pretty strenuous work, especially the digging, but you were left with the satisfaction that comes from getting your hands in the soil and laying the foundations for some good organic food for the future.
But equally good was the camaraderie, with the light-hearted banter interspersed with some discussion of climate change, energy and the economy which gave you the reassuring feeling that in fact you weren’t as far out on a limb as you sometimes felt. And, as in just about every situation, once you start talking about the job in hand, people come up with ideas and suggestions that are like little revelations which give a real boost to your level of motivation.
This is the real value of any meeting, I think. Bouncing ideas off one another, even if you are talking about the dreadful state of the world and what we are doing to the environment, normally gets you fired up with positive ideas about what can be done in practical terms. This alone is a good enough reason to have regular Transition meetings to discuss issues that are not being dealt with adequately by the authorities (are they dealing with anything adequately?) Other people help to generate enthusiasm whether or not they intend to. It’s inevitable, as long as everyone starts from a position of believing in the necessity of doing something and having faith enough to believe it can be effective. I’m avoiding using the word ‘optimistic’ as I for one am not in the least bit optimistic about the general behaviour of the human race. Nevertheless, if you have any conscience at all, and any sensitivity towards other humans and other species, you cannot turn a blind eye and just carry on with business as usual. Every single one of us is being called upon to do whatever we can, and if the best I can do is to start a community garden with two or three other families and grow a handful of organic vegetables for my family to eat, then that is far better than doing nothing. It won’t save the world, but it should improve the soil in my small patch, and it should improve the biodiversity there, and it will provide some good food, untainted by poisons, and help to stitch together a bit of community spirit between a handful of us. If this comes about, there will be good reason to feel that we have achieved something worthwhile.
So, many thanks to Kate, Neil, Jonah, Noah, Gus, Ellen, Lisa, Amelia, Lucy, Monica, Jenny, Paul, Sam and Kamala for a really enjoyable and productive day, and I’ll leave Sam to symbolise how we felt: