April 25, 2007

Interview with David Tracey::author of Guerilla Gardening

Hello sew greens!
Today I wanted to share with you an interview I recently did with the author of the new book "Guerilla Gardening", David Tracey. He is a journalist and environmental designer living in Vancouver, Canada. His book is all about taking your surroundings into your own hands and beautifying it in the most earth loving way. He was kind enough to take some time to talk about himself and the book. Below is our friendly chat, enjoy!

Ok, so first why don't you just tell me more about yourself and what you do for a living?

It's a bit of a complicated question, actually. I'll make it short as I can: I'm a journalist, also an environmental designer.

What do you do as an environmental designer?

Well I studied landscape architecture in grad school, so I learned to do eco-restoration, site design, edible landscaping... a variety of things. I'm also now working on a project to help get more community gardens in Vancouver, particularly among vulnerable populations. We're working with provincial health and city officials. Also, I'm the executive director of Tree City, an ecological engagement group that gets people involved in their own environment through trees.

That's wonderful, do you feel like Vancouver is accepting of the work you're doing?

Yes, mostly. It's a good time to be here and doing green things because there's a convergence going on, but it's a struggle too... the conservative elements and profiteers are no less voracious here.

So what inspired you to go into "guerrilla gardening"?

I got interested in engaged ecology, the idea that people in cities were losing their sense of place. I wanted to find a way to help everyone get back in touch with the land, and a lot of the people I'm thinking of are not landowners. It's not just low income -- even modern condo dwellers may have expensive places but nowhere to put their hands into the earth. I was also interested in the changing notion of public and private. We're now in an era of intense privatization of everything. I see it more and more, not just with gated communities and private security firms which now outnumber the public police in most north American cities. It's also happening in our minds. We're being encouraged to accept corporate advertising as the arbiters of style and beauty. So to combine a way to get people back in touch with their own shared environment, and to think about what public really means, guerrilla gardening seemed an ideal fit.

I get a sense that to be a guerrilla gardener you have to do a little sneaking around, do you feel this is true?

I don't think it is true about sneaking, although that can be a big part of the appeal. A lot of the best work can be done after you get permission. In the book I define it as "gardening public space with or without permission." I tried to take as open-sourced an approach as possible... even that definition I wouldn't claim as definitive. I wanted instead to make the point that because guerrilla gardening is autonomy in green, everyone should be able to discover what it is for themselves... and no one should be discouraged from doing a guerrilla garden just because the landowner (city or private or whomever) agrees...

I would be slightly intimidated by it. I was glad to read in some of the marketing for the book that "handling officials" has a section. Plus, I would think you would want people to overcome any fear of legalities.

The legal part is more of a fear than a reality, though. It's highly unlikely you'd be arrested for flowering. Although I do have a story of a guy in Montreal who did get busted for graffiti work involving public space issues.

So basically everyone has a right to the earth.

I think so. We all create the city, we all share the air, water, etc. So whose kids don't have a right to breathe clean air?

So what are some other benefits to guerrilla gardening other than visual gratification?

That list can go on and on. It's fun. It can be a community building thing, good exercise, a political lesson in public space, increase biodiversity, lesson in storm water runoff and an environmentally educational tool for green propaganda.

So is there anything you would expect your readers to know before reading the book?

No, not really. I wrote it to be a "manualfesto" so it's a combination of a rant and some practical advice for anyone whether you're a beginning gardener or a pro.

Are you an avid gardener?

Yes, I've loved gardening since I was a kid. I only wish I had more time to do it...the usual excuse. It's almost more of a need than a desire. I know if I don't do at least something every year I get this gnawing sense of regret like...there's a growing season gone. I love plants of all kinds, and am still fascinated by the whole process -- photosynthesis is astounding -- but if I can grow stuff AND eat it too? That's as good as it gets.

So I'm assuming there are guerrilla gardening groups? How would someone get involved with one of those?

There are, some that put the word out and want members, some you never hear of. You and your two friends can go out tonight and plant a parking strip and create a guerrilla gardening group. One example of how to do it is the group that just started up in Vancouver through meetup.com... they're now holding monthly meetings, doing workshops, and sound like they're off to some great stuff.

So hopefully this has given you, our readers, a little inspiration to go out and put your hands in the earth. Plant on!

That concludes our little chat. Please check out the new book Guerilla Gardening and if you would like to know more about David, here is his website::Davidtracey.ca

Related links that David is involved with worth giving a look:
Eco urbanist
Tree city


f. pea said...

How inspiring! There are a lot of ugly parking strips around here that could use some compost and green things growing.

Tracy said...

v. cool. thanks ash!

Leanne said...

Super inspirational, and what a pleasant find! I stumbled across this blog via a round about way, and will be reading it loyally from now.

RR said...

If you're interested in getting involed guerrilla gardening check out www.guerrillagardening.org where there is global community forum.

lisa solomon said...

great interview.... am going to chew on this.

Anonymous said...

i am totally inspired to do something near my place. it's a pit now but wait until i get some seeds going. thanks for the works and the awesome blog.

juliana b.

bugheart said...

love this
i think
dc needs
a little

Unknown said...

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