Looking through the latest offerings on Transition Culture, the blog written by community peak oil activist Rob Hopkins (who we interviewed here), it would appear that the Transition Towns initiative that he started is gaining in influence by the week. One of the most striking examples of how mainstream the concern about peak oil and climate change is becoming is an article on gardening and oil addiction by popular TV gardener Monty Don that originally appeared in the BBC’s Gardener’s World Magazine. Apparently inspired by a talk that Rob gave at the Prince of Wales’ Food and Farming Summer School, Monty sets out in no uncertain terms why gardeners, including himself, are simultaneously part of the problem and, potentially, an important part of the solution:
I might be accused of bias, but I tend to think that gardeners are the nicest and best people there are. Find someone who cares for their plot and you’ll find a decent human being. But the simple truth is that gardeners guzzle gas. We might be organic, love and care for all the wildlife, and recycle all our waste into perfect compost, but most of us still leave an ugly footprint in our wake. It’s not just about oil, but let’s start with that. Of course, there’s the petrol we use to fuel our lawn mowers, hedgecutters and so on. It may not amount to a great deal, but it’s the easiest to cut back on. There’s also the fuel we use scooting to and fro from garden centres, when in the past we took more cuttings, collected our own seeds or swapped divisions with our friends and neighbours within walking or cycling distance.
The article goes on to explain why oil addiction is such a problem, and suggests that gardeners undertake a thorough oil audit of everything they use in their gardening activities. He also advocates a return to a more local economy, and setting up community-based groups for skill-sharing, seed swapping, and generally helping each other meet our needs:
One man’s waste is another’s need. All of us produces an excess of something, be it cabbages, grass cuttings or nicotiana seed. If we don’t share this locally then it’s waste. But it can almost certainly be bartered locally for something that we genuinely need. We should set up local networks where you can advertise items that others would gratefully use, but which you’d otherwise throw away. As soon as a culture of care and longevity becomes established, people will hunt out good, reliable old tools and kit rather than be fobbed off with shiny new versions.
All of this means a radical rethink of how we live our lives. I must admit that I’m one of the worst culprits – I love gadgets and use machines a lot, and I’m always short of time, so tend to take the line of least resistance. No one needs to change more than I do. The garden centres, oil companies, horticultural industry and all those who depend on the current way of doing things to earn a living won’t thank me for any of this. But we really have no choice.
For more ideas for reducing your footprint in the garden, check out our guide on How to Green Your Garden.