Jordan Sandrock a-gardening

What am I doing? I’m fighting climate change.

Growing a garden this summer has given me a lot of hope for in the fight against climate change. It’s a concrete action I can take. It helps address the issues our world is facing now, and it helps me build the skills to supplement my nutritional needs when climate change creates food shortages in the future. I’m helping to address poverty and exploitation as it intersects with climate change.

I know where my food came from. It was not shipped, flown, or trucked long distances to get to my table. It was walked over to my kitchen from the side yard. The seeds were bought from a store, coming from who knows where. But they were very small when they were shipped, and if I can save my seeds properly I won’t need to buy them again next year. I already did that with my sunflowers.

I know who grew my food. Mostly, my brother Phoenix and I have been doing the work. Phoenix’s scouting friends volunteered to help with the setup and planting. They were paid in hot dogs. There was no slave labour, or people making slave wages during any part of the process.

I know where the water is coming from. Mostly, we’ve been lucky this season and it’s been falling from the sky at regular intervals. Otherwise, it’s been coming out of the pump in the river. The river is on unceded unsurrendered Algonquin territory, but I like to think of my water use more of a borrowing, since the water is sinking into the ground, and ending up back in the water table that it came from. I didn’t ask permission from any Algonquin people though, so they might have a different opinion. At the very least, I know my water is not being stolen from a powerless community and piped hundreds of kilometers away while the community it originated from faces water advisories and/or drought.

I know what waste is being created and where it is going. My food is not being packaged. The weeds will be piled in the dirt/compost pile under the pine tree or sent away in the city’s yard waste pickup to compost elsewhere within the city. There are no chemicals or pesticides causing harm to wildlife or disrupting the ecosystem.

I know where the excess is going. If you’ve ever planted a garden before, you’ll know that there reaches a time in the season where your plants produce more food than you can actually eat. At the beginning of this process, Phoenix and I agreed that we would give our extra food to the Ottawa food bank. The Ottawa food bank takes fresh food donations at their warehouse. They will also pick up fresh food donations directly from your yard.

I am maintaining my health. I’m drinking lots of water, wearing a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. I’m getting some physical exercise by weeding and watering. Studies even show that gardening is good for your mental health, because working in the dirt can increase your serotonin levels.

I think about my class in religion and ecology and my future career path. As a Christian, as someone hoping to become a pastor, some of my largest responsibilities are and will be to help the poor, feed the hungry, and stand with the marginalized. We know that the rich will ride out climate change on the backs of the poor. Gardening is one of those things that is not accessible to those who will benefit the most from it. People living in apartment buildings (who may be more likely to be low income) and people who are homeless do not have access to the land to grow things. People who work two or three jobs or who are single parents may not have the time to maintain a garden. What can we do about this?

Well, our churches sure have a lot of land.

Our libraries, our community centers, our parks – they sure have a lot of land too.

Some churches have community gardens. How can we expand this program? Can we offer volunteer hours to students for maintaining the garden? Can we hire students with a living wage, supplemented through the Canada summer works program? Can we hire students and other people with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, who may not be hired elsewhere? Can we ask teachers and retirees to volunteer for an hour or two each week in the summer? Can we request the city offer free garden plots to people living in apartment buildings or in houses without a yard where a garden is feasible?

I think about victory gardens in the world wars, where everyone, especially city dwellers, was encouraged to supplement their food consumption through personal gardens because mass produced food was being sent to soldiers overseas. Municipalities lent city-owned land to people living in urban areas. At the peak of its program, something like 50% of the food being consumed by urban dwellers in Canada was being produced in victory gardens. If we did it once, we sure as heck can do it again. Except this time, these gardens will be for victory against climate change.

Consume mindfully. Create wonderfully. Minister to the poor. Feed the hungry. Stand with the marginalized. Challenge the systems. Fight climate change, for the future of us all.

Jordan is an SCMer living in Ottawa. They are studying to become an Anglican priest. Like most people who happen to live on this planet, they are very concerned about climate change.