With trust in status quo politics withering, I offer my manifesto for a brave, visionary and greener force fit for the dawning of a more earth-friendly era.
By John Walker. Published in Kitchen Garden, April 2010.
Amid fevered media speculation about the date for the 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-looking, 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 tell you 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 interconnected threats of climate change and ‘peak oil’, resource depletion, destruction of natural habitats, global pollution, and the planet-wide shrinking 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 crafted from 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, difficult 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 captured by vested business interests and self-interested celebrity.
We stand, my fellow kitchen gardeners, on an ecological precipice. Together we can lock hands, step back from the edge of the abyss, into the glow of a new green dawn, and start cultivating ourselves a brighter, 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 foster research to establish how much land is required to offer everyone the level of self-sufficiency of their own choosing. We will then legislate to ensure that all new homes are automatically given their own ‘growplots’. These will be our nation’s flexible, future allotments. Anyone not wanting a growplot can donate it to a shared 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 organic 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 silence 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 grant-assisted greenhouse or polytunnel, so they can play their part in our budding 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 pressing 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 phased out.
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 impact on 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 creates (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 gardening 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 moratorium 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.
“Together we can lock hands, step back from the edge of the abyss, into the glow of a new green dawn, and start cultivating ourselves a brighter, more resilient future”
The use of peat for making compost will be banned immediately, as its extraction contributes to global warming. A public education campaign will support all gardeners during the transition to using composts made from renewable resources. An immediate ban will also apply to patio heaters, and to slug pellets containing metaldehyde.
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 fund 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 bike, bus or train. Each centre will also exist ‘virtually’ on the internet, and will therefore be an interactive 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 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 mastermind 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 infornation 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 everyone.
These are just some of the policies that will be set in train 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 alongside 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 heart of the ecological imperative to start living more earth-friendly lives?
Yes, my fellow gardeners, we can.