Updated: Jul 3
She's shaking her iron fist, warning us to start taking care of the planet and each other.
I’d been searching through photos of an idyllic and elegant beachfront garden picnic — indulging in memories of breezy vintage linen and periwinkle blue milk glass on white wood tables — when I received news of the world on fire. A small town located very near to where I live, had burned to the ground in a matter of moments. Lytton, British Columbia, Canada is no more. Decimated by a raging, explosive and angry inferno.
I have friends who live near Lytton, who have ranches and livestock, and families with history.
Historic high temperatures and 45 mph winds created a perfect and devastating storm. How does this happen here in the Pacific Northwest, the butt of tiresome damp and rainy jokes?
Climate change. Experts say that while climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events like the recent unprecedented heat wave that set the country’s ‘highest ever’ recorded temperatures, it is difficult to link any single event to global warming.
The truth is inconvenient to those who profit from it. More than 15 years have passed since former United States Vice President Al Gore and his documentary film maker colleagues began a tireless campaign to educate and enlighten people about global warming and its potential impact.
The documentary film, ’An Inconvenient Truth’ exposed the perilous truth and some speculation about the real and imagined impact of climate change, characterizing the phenomenon using the ‘global warming’ language of the day.
Ten years later, the follow-up ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power’ documentary revealed the truths behind the truth about climate change, and included hopeful calls to action like “make your voice heard”, and “fight like your world depends on it.”
Yet here we are. Still spewing noxious fumes into the atmosphere, buying engineered food wrapped in layer upon layer of packaging and single-use plastic, using pesticides and herbicides, and destroying millennia old ecosystems so that millions can consume low-cost, high-fat burgers, or trend-of-the-moment palm oil concoctions. My grandmother would ask, ‘What in God’s name are we doing?“
I don’t know who God is, or indeed if there is one supreme being. My God is nature, in all her awesome glory, and she is ‘pissed off’. In my house, we refer to karmic warning shots across the bow as ‘helicopters’, referencing the parable about the man in the riverfront home, praying to God for rescue during (ironically) an extreme rain and flooding event. The story, as I recall it, goes like this:
A singular-minded, willfully blind fellow opens his front door to see the river rising and his neighbours evacuating, yet he stays put and prays for rescue. “Please save me God,” he cries as a boy paddles by in a canoe and asks if he wants to jump in. “No thank you,” says the man, “God will save me.”
The river water rises and begins flooding the house, so the man goes upstairs and calls out the second story window. “Please save me God, I don’t want to die.” Out of nowhere, a powerboat appears and the driver calls out to the man upstairs, asking if he wants a ride. “No thank you,” says the man, “God will save me.”
The river water continues to rise and engulf the home. The man climbs to his roof deck and shouts over the din of the raging river, “Please, please God, save me. I don’t want to die.” Miraculously, a helicopter flies low over the house and a search and rescue worker yells down to the man, “grab the rope and hang on.” “No thank you,” says the man, “God will save me.”
Moments later, the river swallows the house and the man, and he perishes. When the man arrives in heaven, he is angry and asks God why he didn’t save him. God responded, “What, have you no eyes and ears, and no brain with which to think? I sent a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter.”
I am as guilty as the next woman or man, of selective hearing and seeing, to contributing to the world on fire. But like you I am making small changes within my powers and ability to do so, to acknowledge the truth about climate change, and affect positive change.
Food gardening at home is one small thing we can all do, and we must. Millions of small gardens in yards, balconies, patios, fire escapes, rooftops, empty lots, school yards and byways add up to one very powerful movement. One massive green dent in a hot, dry and dirty world.
Nature gave us the goods for a good life — the elements in perfect balance — more than enough to feed and house us, and keep us healthy. Greed, ignorance, greed, envy, greed, and more greed upset the balance and created climate change. If we stop, full stop, and use our eyes and our ears and our brains, we can restore nature’s perfect balance. We can, and we must.
How many damn helicopters do we watch fly by and ignore? How many Lyttons?
These past many days have been unbearable. Hundreds of people died in this city of mine. They succumbed to the heat, unable and unprepared with the tools and capacity to survive. Pets, people, property destroyed by climate change.
I am not expert, but I can see, hear and think. I feel climate change. It was 107F outside my ‘wet coast’ home. Inside, close to 90F for several days and nights. You could in fact fry an egg on the pavement and run hot water out of both taps in the kitchen sink.
My small watercress pond water was so hot it cooked the plants. A black hose left on the ground for two hours burned white hot tracks in the bee turf. Green oregano bleached white, peas shrivelled on the vine, bees went into hiding, birdbaths dried up, unripe fruit dropped from bushes and trees in sheets.
Many local farmers experienced the worst weather-related crop failures in history, some losing 100% of their crops. The very people who feed us are devastated by climate change, and still we aren’t getting it.
What can we do? We can grow food at home, or grow more food at home. Not to put the farmers out of business, rather to keep them in business. Growing food and improving food security locally help to restore nature’s balance. Millions of drops in a big beautiful bucket of change.
Yesterday, as outside temperatures cooled substantially, I began converting a small 150 sq. ft. patch of unproductive lawn into a tiny food forest and edible ecosystem. I turned the sod and dug the beds, and filled buckets and buckets with grass clippings and compost. For 14 long, hot, sweat-soaked hours, this was my singular garden meditation; my act of rebellion and resilience.
This morning I am sore, and tired, and grateful for the privilege of space and a strong back, and for the neighbours who cared enough to stop and ask and consider the possibility themselves.
My weekly contribution is shorter than usual, lacking admittedly the bright and beautiful photos of lush gardens. I wasn't in the mood for beautiful. I was digging, making my voice heard.
Thank you to my Million Gardens Movement colleagues for checking in on me from Chicago, where they are experiencing historic drought, and from Ontario where extreme back-and-forth temperatures are settling somewhat.
Summer has just started and if heat maps are any indication of things to come, we should brace ourselves for the worst, and commit to being of service to those in need. Over-plant vegetables and get ready to share.
If you are interested in learning about urban permaculture and growing biodiversity in your backyard (or like me, in your front yard), look for a beautifully illustrated and easy to understand book called ‘The Edible Ecosystem Solution’ by Canadian author and edible ecosystem designer Zach Loeks.
We can do this. Let's food garden together, like the world depends on it.
Until next week, happy gardening!