With trust in status quo politics withering away, earth-friendly gardening writer John Walker presents his manifesto for a brave, visionary and greener force fit for the dawning of a more earth-friendly era.
As a media frenzy media engulfs confirmation of the date for the forthcoming general election, I am as delighted as I am humbled to announce that I intend to stand for Parliament, where I will sow the seeds of a dynamic new force in British politics. Fresh and forward-thinking, it will put real plot into politics, so that within a few short months of my party taking office, ‘political plotting’ will gain a new, historic meaning. When I say that my party will appeal to the grass roots, I truly mean it.
This new, vibrant and earth-centric powerhouse for change will be known as The Gardening Party (TGP). Its policies will be driven by the seriousness of the environmental challenges which lie ahead: the intertwined threats of climate change and ‘peak oil’, resource depletion, destruction of natural habitats, global pollution, and the planet-wide erosion of biodiversity.
My party’s ambitions will bring new hope to every corner of the earth where people are passionate about growing plants, especially to eat. Our far-reaching policies, some radical and revolutionary, are born of a dynamic crucible of green ideas into which has been poured the latest and best knowledge from organic, biodynamic and vegan-organic gardening, permaculture, and the horticultural, agricultural and social sciences. For some, hard and unpopular choices lie ahead. My ‘big shed’ will welcome input from all, but TGP’s aim is to never again let the direction of our gardening nation be dictated by vested interests and self-interested celebrity.
We stand, my fellow gardeners, on an ecological precipice. Together we can join hands, step back from the edge of the abyss, into the glow of a new green dawn, and start cultivating ourselves a better, more resilient future. Will you, fellow plotters, gaze at the dirt under your fingernails, feel the untapped power of what you do in helping heal our damaged earth, and join me in nurturing a new and greener Britain?
The Gardening Government will introduce a deep green paper on our proposals to give every citizen a ‘right to grow’. We will instigate research to establish how much land is required to offer everyone the level of self-sufficiency of their choosing. We will then legislate to ensure that all new homes are automatically allocated their own ‘growplots’. These will be our nation’s flexible, future allotments. Anyone not wanting a growplot can donate it to a pool of ‘edible space’ for their area, which will be used to help meet the ever-increasing demand for space to grow healthy, chemical-free food.
As part of our growplot programme, we will carry out a sweeping review of the carbon intensity of green space in towns and cities. Where fleets of ride-on mowers are consuming vast quantities of fuel just to cut the grass, we will bring about a transformation. We will replace the snarl of mowers with a network of integrated growplots producing an abundance of fresh, untravelled, seasonal and ultra-local organic food. These will be the community-owned and -tended market gardens of the 21st century. All gardeners will be offered a subsidised greenhouse or polytunnel, so they can play their part in our emerging and renewably-powered ‘solar society’.
To fund the growplot programme and our other plans, and deter the most environmentally damaging gardening practices, my party’s most immediate task will be to introduce a range of climate-friendly taxes. Garden chemicals and fertilisers derived from oil and other non-renewables will be subject to an ‘envirotax escalator’, so that their cost increases annually, at well above inflation. This will reduce demand over a five-year timescale, after which all but the most benign garden treatments will be withdrawn.
All other gardening products, however they are sold, will be required to carry a unique ‘enviro-code’. Entered online, this will give a detailed ‘lifecycle analysis’ of that product’s costs to the environment. This will include disclosure of the raw materials required to make and run the product (such as oil or minerals), the provenance of those materials, whether they have been ethically sourced, what pollution the manufacture of the product has caused (such as carbon emissions), how far it has travelled, what the environmental implications of using it are, and how recyclable it is at the end of its life. The cost of this scheme will be borne by the industry, and will be subject to rigorous scrutiny. It will bring unprecedented transparency where little currently exists.
While we review the implications of the Climate Change Act 2008, a freeze will be put on all planning applications for large out-of-town, car-dependent garden centres. My government will make a rigorous assessment of whether the monopolisation of gardening by a few large corporations is compatible with the carbon reduction targets enshrined in the Act.
The use of sphagnum peat for making compost will be banned immediately, as its extraction contributes to global warming. A public education campaign will help and advise gardeners during the transition to using peat-free composts made from renewable resources. An immediate ban will also apply to patio heaters, and to metaldehyde-based slug pellets.
During the phase-out of oil-derived garden chemicals, my Gardening Government will identify shining examples of earth-friendly gardening, on every scale, in our most densely populated areas. We will then establish a nationwide network of ‘growcentres’, whose owners will be supported, via our climate taxes, to enable them to showcase ecologically sustainable gardening. In five years’ time, almost everyone will have a growcentre within a 30-minute journey of their home, accessible either on foot or by public transport. Each centre will also exist ‘virtually’ on the internet, and will therefore be a neighbourhood resource accessible 24/7, with mentoring provided by the growcentre champions. For those struggling with the transition away from high-energy, oil-dependent gardening, a free telephone helpline will be established, offering practical gardening advice, as well as emotional support and, where demand exists, anger management.
On a bioregional scale we will seed a network of not-for-profit ‘earth centres’, which will co-ordinate the collation, curation and propagation of plant varieties uniquely suited to each bioregion. These earth centres will work in synergy with their own families of growcentres, and will become hubs for local seed and plant selection. They will also act as local skill centres. Earth centres will be readily accessible by public transport, and open to all.
These are just some of the policies that will be set in motion in the germinating hours of a Gardening Government. From that day on, for our gardening nation, and for all of nature and for all peoples with whom we share this precious earth, things can only get better. When I said that I would put some real plot into politics, I meant it. But it won’t just be one plot. It won’t be hundreds, not even thousands, but millions of plots, all working with nature to help deliver us more meaningful and contented lives.
So can we, by turning our hands to the soil, make this gardening nation a deeper shade of green than ever before? Yes, we can. Can we, together, plot by plot, put food gardening at the very core of the ecological imperative to start living more earth-friendly lives?
Yes, my fellow gardeners, we can.