Monday, January 12, 2009

Guerrilla Gardening: It's Peaceful

So you're probably asking: What the hell is guerrilla gardening? Lemme explain.

In every urban area there are patches of dirt that are left up to the city or landowners to maintain. Some cities do a great job of keeping these areas neat and tidy--they've planted colorful plants, tend them regularly, and keep them free of trash. Conscientious landowners maintain their property. There are always exceptions, however, to this rule.

These exceptions are those plots of land that have been abandoned, used as trash heaps, and are painfully neglected. For some reason, the city doesn't have enough resources to maintain the plot of land or the landowner has long since moved away. The residents of the neighborhood, meanwhile, are left to deal with a messed up plot of land.

The real tragedy is not that the land is somehow not being used for production of food or isn't pretty. Non-verbal communication is the problem. Abandoned plots of land morph into trash heaps. These trash heaps tell everyone around that no one is paying attention. No one cares. Do whatever you want, and while you're at it, steal my purse and throw it in the trash heap.

The same principle applied to the subway in New York. In Malcom Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, he shares how New York City reduced crime in the subway simply by ensuring that every car left the Subway yard free of graffiti. I am a fan of artistic graffiti, but by removing territorial graffiti, crime was substantially reduced on the subway.

We figured that maybe by tending the flowerbeds on one of the worst blocks in Belltown, that we could do the same thing. We could demonstrate that we love our block. We could show we care. We could provided an opportunity to build our community by getting out of our houses and doing something positive.

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