09 April 2010

And to turf it returns.

I am home today, sick with a killer head cold, but that didn't stop me from finding out that overnight the "People's Garden" had been returned to bare land, re-seeded, fenced off, and marked as an area under restoration. As yesterday was the last day of classes prior to exams, it makes sense as far as timing goes.

Not letting being away from campus get in my way, I put a call out for someone to take me a photo ("pics or it didn't happen") and within an hour I could see for myself that it was gone (left, photo by C. Newell).

As soon as I got the original message, I immediately checked the Victoria Food Not Lawns blog. While I found nothing about this event, the most recent entry concerns Wednesday's "semi-facilitated" discussion -- originally planned to take place by the fountain, near the "people's garden" but moved at the last minute to the Student Union Building. It also mentions that several of the students involved in the protest had been singled out by UVic Administration and had been sent letters earlier this week -- VFNL calls the tone threatening; I'm not sure they could have been worded differently in order to be perceived otherwise by the students.

Throughout this exercise I have been torn. While I support guerrilla gardening of vacant lots, unkempt boulevards, and abandoned spaces, I can't quite see past the trespassing angle that is suggested by many proponents. I cannot accept that anyone or any group has the right to tell me how to use my land. Of course as soon as I typed that I thought, "But people do tell me how to use my land; there are all manner of land use restrictions and bylaws and undersurface rights to which I have to adhere." I may have to rethink my position.

Getting back to the campus situation, I believe the administration had no choice but to remove the gardens -- it was only a question of timing -- to have left the garden in place would have set a curious precedent. There would be nothing to stop gardeners from taking over every square foot of open land -- or, on the opposite end of the scale, to prevent others from paving every square foot and declaring it improved parking or from setting up commercial activity. The University released an update today, stating again that
The university will continue to work with student organizations on campus to hold a public meeting at an appropriate time in the future to enable all interested members of the campus community to receive accurate information, provide their perspectives on sustainability, gardening and food issues on campus, and learn about the variety of initiatives underway.
I was also very happy to read in the same announcement that,
The plants retrieved from the site have been relocated to the underutilized areas of the existing campus community gardens where they may be replanted by students interested in on-campus community gardening.
Hooray! There were a number of lovely plants in that garden and it had been heartbreaking to consider that they may have just been plowed under or composted. Now if only we could see the University commit to a permanent food production space on campus that would truly serve the whole community... that would be the best possible outcome for this protest.


Coffee Expert said...

So you know - and that everyone is on the same page...

The garden was trashed by drunken students last night during a period of year end reverie.

Ironic huh?

Anne said...

It's a funny thing, is this.

I do understand the thinking behind "food not lawns," but the approach was sort of lacking. I didn't have a lot of sympathy, because it didn't look like they were terribly committed to follow through with actual care and production.

I'm glad the plants were given over to the real gardens!

Amy said...

I totally love the video and have shared it with friends. But it's REALLY annoying that it starts auto-playing each time I refresh my screen.

Cheryl said...

Yeah, I wasn't given any choices for the embedding so I couldn't stop it from autoplaying. I'll try to blog soon so this one gets bumped off the main page ;)