Imagine yourself lying awake on a hot summer night trying to fall asleep. Out of nowhere, you hear a rustling noise outside your apartment. You look down from your 10th floor window and you see a small group of shadows emerging from the streets. You see quick flashes of silver and you hear that clinking noise metal makes when it hits pavement. The shadows seem to be swarming on a plot of land outside your apartment, buzzing around and furiously working away. Flashlights flicker, dirt flies and a constant chatter between the workers can be heard. Then you realize, that these people appear to be gardening.
But they aren't just gardening, they are Guerilla Gardening.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a guerilla is "a person who engages in irregular warfare especially as a member of an independent unit carrying out harassment and sabotage."
While this term is usually reserved for discussing rebel militarizes and warfare tactics, it has it's place in the eco-activist world too. Guerilla gardeners are groups of people who will garden on someone else's land with or without their permission.
Typically done on public property, these green thumbed eco-activists are usually looking to help beautify their cities or make a political statement. Their projects can be small such as creating a herb garden on a sidewalk in Los Angeles or very big such as attempting to garden in Parliament Square in London, England.
Richard Reynolds, one of the most prominent guerrilla gardeners began his rebellious planting in England in October of 2004. It was a solo mission at 2am in the morning and it passed by relatively unnoticed like many guerrilla gardens.
Many times people assume that the “greenifcations” guerrilla gardeners provide are just intended modifications by the local city government. However, there are some instances in which guerrilla gardeners experience resistance from their local authorities. Reynolds says that police will usually allow the gardening to continue once they realize the aims of these revolutionary horticulturists are to beautify public property, not damage it.
A growing global movement, guerrilla gardening presents an interesting junction between peaceful eco-activism and aggressive, politically charged vandalism.
Reynolds has published a book on the development of this renegade planting lifestyle entitled “On Guerrilla Gardening” and his blog has over 4,000 users.
Personally, I believe that guerrilla gardening could be an effective tool to mobilize community groups to help spread eco-awareness and improve a city's landscape.
That being said, making changes to public property without permission is a fine line to walk. At the very least, guerrilla gardening can be used to engage citizens to help out with the maintenance of city gardens and green spaces such as the work of the Human Shrub in Colchester, England.
The Human Shrub is a guerrilla gardener who has slowly begun rehabilitating Colchester's neglected and weed strewn plant containers on his own accord. While this may appear to be strange to some and a waste of time to others, it is perfectly harmless act of eco-activism that shows small changes can make a difference.
As long as guerrilla gardeners remain good in their attentions and steer away from violent protests or costly vandalism, I think this will be beneficial green movement that will be very interesting to follow.