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Landscaping Solutions MD Ben West explains why we need to get back in touch with nature and that compromise is key.
In last months article I focused mainly on the theoretical and practical problems we face in our relationship with the environment. If we are to continue to pursue the goal of ‘economic growth’, this term must come to mean something very different than hitherto. Going forward, all our actions must be scrutinised through the lens of sustainability or regeneration. Our current nescience in this area stems from our conceptual disconnect from nature. I stress ‘conceptual’ because it is all in the mind; literal disconnect from nature is impossible, for what are we but natural through and through? We have lost sight of this truth and therein lies the problem.
Lifestyles and schooling have blinded us to nature and our place in it. Worse still, many of us are filled with fear of plants, insects, fungi and the landscapes they inhabit. Those blind to nature have no incentive to love and nurture it. When we fall out of love, indifference and neglect set in. When we fall out of love with nature, we neglect ourselves.
COVID-19 can rekindle the flame. Nature is courting us again. She has asked us to slow down so that we might renew our acquaintance. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and there’s blossom on the vine. She is giving us another chance to remember who she is and how good we are together. Maybe we could give it another shot? Let’s allow ourselves to fall under her spell once more. Let’s reaffirm our vows, and this time, let’s honour them. We would do well to remember that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. If we fall back into our gallivanting, will her benevolence endure?
Successful relationships are built on compromise. For this relationship to be more than just a fleeting affair we need to meet her halfway. We need to surrender the conceit of the world as dead matter at our disposal and dismantle our dominator culture in order to learn lessons from life forms far older than us that have evolved to live harmoniously with nature; plants, for instance. They can be the great levellers. Let them be our teachers and the garden our classroom - or more appropriately our forum, for this is a conversation, an exchange of ideas amongst equals.
All gardens have something in common whether we like it or not - weeds. I’ve written previously of the biodiversity benefits of allowing weeds to grow. What if I told you consuming weeds can also help us remember who we are? As I write I see before me a host of garden weeds; dandelion, herb robert, nipplewort, plantain, sow thistle, sorrel, ramsons, goosefoot, cleavers, bittercress, burdock. I could go on. All have long nourished and healed us. The rediscovery of a forgotten world of varied flavours and textures, a world beyond the restricted palette of supermarket fruit and veg, is liberating and empowering. It’s also an act of defiance; we are connected once more to our ancestry and environment on a visceral level. Food and medicine are not only found upon shelves, they are products of the feral earth. The health benefits are myriad, both in the inherent nutritional value of the wild foodstuffs and the healing communion with nature. Thousands of years of evolution cannot be quashed in a handful of generations. This stuff is deep within us. Most describe this kind of reconnection as a ‘coming home’.
Weeds in ‘wild’ gardens expose us to a more intimate, egalitarian, interconnected understanding of nature, and thereby of ourselves. A great deal is at stake if we do not regain our capacity to converse with her. Small steps shall set us on our way.
Landscaping Solutions team of talented garden designers and craftspeople are passionate about creating and managing ecological, sustainable and resilient gardens fit for the 21st century. Get in touch to get the ball rolling on your project in 2021.