Growing a ‘Community Garden’: Theorising the Constraints and Possibilities of Climate Change Conscious Community Solidarities

Friday, 20 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Lynn JAMIESON, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Julie BROWNLIE, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Simon ANDERSON, Independent research consultant, United Kingdom
This study considers the theoretical implications of both the ease and difficulties of creating new solidarities around gardening in a city neighbourhood associated with low incomes, and above average health and social problems. The population of the area is predominantly white Scottish but also residents of Polish and Turkish origin. For 4 years a ‘community garden’ has been developing on land owned by the local authority who are committed to the idea of asset transfer to the 'community'. Funding was raised by a climate-change-aware voluntary organisation wishing to help the residents to displace supermarket food with lower-carbon organically grown fruit and vegetables, foster wider take up of gardening, vegetable cookery and awareness of climate change. The project quickly attracted a small group of regular workers in the community garden, good relationship with the teachers and pupils of the neighbouring school for children aged 5-12 and with a number of local voluntary groups. It also attracted low level and, sometimes, spectacular theft and vandalism, such as the burning down of the poly tunnel. The project also revealed multiple reasons for limited take-up of gardening in back gardens. Struggles and uncertainties over ways forward led to a range of efforts at building alliances and ‘community consultation’, hoping to navigate competing agendas and complexities of power and status. Drawing a range of literatures and approaches back to a relational sociology and using multiple data sources (questionnaires, interviews and participant observation), we attempt to theorise the interplay of power, discourses and experiences that constrain and enable the possibilities of climate conscious ‘community controlled’ action and the growing of ‘community solidarities.’