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Monday, October 10, 2011

Community Gardens and Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to many cities in the US and many folks I know have been discussing what is going on. The comments have ranged from some expressing an interest in joining the movement and others having opinions both supportive and opposed on the issues being raised. Others have asked me whether I will join those in Liberty Park - the name the occupiers have given to Zuccotti Park where many have spent their days and nights. I have not been there to spend a lot of time but  did stop by to see what was happening and took a couple of photos. While I may not be able to spend a night there I can talk about it in my blog. It is set up like a small town with the areas designated by the needs of a gathering like this: a meeting area, a sleeping area, a cooking area, a library, a media center and a work area (mostly for making signs).

The occupiers spend a lot of time meeting and discussing what they will do, what messages they will broadcast to the world and how they will organize themselves and make decisions. The use of press media and social media is widespread from a website to Facebook and Twitter, There is even a 4 page printed paper called The Occupied Wall Street Journal which of course is also available as a .pdf The Occupied Wall Street Journal .

So what does Occupy Wall Street have to do with community gardening? Many of my posts have stressed the importance of social sustainability and how community gardening groups are testing grounds for how to organize a group to make decisions and to get the work of community gardening accomplished. The occupiers at Liberty Park say they are using  modified consensus to make decisions. This is a very practical way to make decisions as everyone has a say but just 1 person can't hold up making a decision. Both this movement and community gardening are showing us how to organize and make decisions where everyone's voice can be heard.

Occupy Wall Street is also space based. The group is occupying a public space to use for what they see ( and I agree) is an important purpose. Community Gardeners also occupy underutilized city spaces to create neighborhood amenities, grow food and improve their communities. If I might suggest what the overriding message from the occupiers could be is just that the dollars that are in the hands of the 1% be used so that this energy can be focused to create neighborhood amenities, grow food and improve their communities.

The community gardeners often ask for more space for more gardens. The Occupy Wall Street folks are saying that they are running out of space in Liberty Park and are looking to expand to other parks in the city. That will be an interesting next step. I am curious how that will play out.

One excellent clue about what can be done may be happening in one of my favorite gardens, Drew Gardens in the Bronx which recently began a project with the International Rescue Committee to give refugees a chance to grow foods from their homelands, to interact with others in their position and  improve their lives. An article today about ethnic farmers markets also included a reference to  Drew Gardens .

What it comes down to is that everyone wants a productive life. How that will happen and what it will look like is still to be determined. Looking at community gardens may give us a few clues.

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