Slowdown Papers
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Slowdown Papers

Afternoon walk, Farsta 14 June 2020

39. Slowdown landscapes: The defiant garden produces social justice as well as strawberries

Small green pieces of urban farms, repairing vacant lots in in Los Angeles and Brooklyn

“The only real things in life are food and love in that order.” — David Hockney

So caring for a garden, whether literally or metaphorically, is quite different to an individualism that exemplifies much of the Acceleration. Equally, the way that gardens, in the richest sense of the concept, pollinates or spreads roots, cannot be an autarkic self-sufficient bioregionalist vision either. Again, this recalls Val Plumwood’s firm critique of a simplistic bioregionalism as creating ‘shadow places’, in which footprint is simply exported, as if there was such a thing as an ‘externality’ in a world where everything is connected; or as Timothy Morton put it “‘somewhere else’ is just the same place, you’re just moving some kind of pollution around within a system.”

‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’, by Douglas Adams (1987), was perhaps the first time I became aware of what Adams dubbed ‘the fundamental interconnectedness of all things’. It has stuck with me ever since.

“Just think about even one percent of us starting to grow our own food. Think how much money that would take out of the system, from healthcare to grocery stores. People growing their own food is dangerous [to the status quo].”—Ron Finley

Clearly these gardens, and the spaces they retrofit, are about politics, race, and culture, as well as environment. These landscapes cannot be captured simply by their pattern of spatial distribution, as if on a typical map spread out in an urban planning office, but the condition of their lived experience in a place; what these spaces do; how they act; and how you are involved, and embedded, within them.

Derek Jarman in the garden

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Dan Hill

Designer, urbanist, etc. Director of Melbourne School of Design. Previously, Swedish gov, Arup, UCL IIPP, Fabrica, Helsinki Design Lab, BBC etc