Hazards such as dogs and people may disturb your green patch, so it’s best to pick a resilient plant that can cope with the climate with minimal help from you.
Climate activism and public protests are a great way to garner attention from governments and citizens about the threat of climate change, but you don’t need to attend an organized event to advocate for the planet.
Meet Jenny van Gestel, the coordinator of Guerrilla Gardeners NL, whose work focuses on mobilizing citizens to advocate for the environment by transforming their own streets.
Guerrilla gardening is the act of cultivating plants in public spaces with the aim of improving the surroundings and supporting the environment, usually in a spot that is neglected. Adding greenery has multiple benefits, especially in urban locations, that range from improving and supporting biodiversity to regulating high temperatures and improving air quality.
In an interview with Euronews, Van Gestel suggests replacing stones and tarmac with plants, because “stones and tarmac capture the heat,” and “when you remove stones and you add plants, then you know that the temperatures won’t rise so much.” She also says that “Adding more green means that you have better water management,” which may help mitigate or prevent the flash floods that happen due to climate change.
Is guerrilla gardening illegal?
Climate activist and founder of social enterprise Dream Green Ellen Miles classifies guerrilla gardening as an anarchic form of protest, explaining that “it’s a direct action against nature deprivation and depletion—highlighting the issue of biophobic urbanization while fighting it.” However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s illegal.
Van Gestel’s work with Guerrilla Gardeners NL is, in part, to reassure people that they can be guerrilla gardeners without breaking the law. Van Gestel herself works frequently with her municipal government in the Netherlands to identify greening projects that local civil servants can contribute to.
That said, becoming a guerrilla gardener doesn’t require you to have access to an organized group in your area. “You don’t have to start with a huge garden, just start by removing one paving stone, add one plant, and then just see how it goes. See how the neighbors respond, see how the plant starts growing, and maybe you can develop it from there,” says Gestel.
One of the ways she suggests getting involved is by utilizing the tree pits near your home, being careful not to damage the tree that already stands there. If you’re worried about whether it’s allowed or not, simply reach out to your local government. Luckily, both van Gestel and Miles say that they hardly ever run into obstacles when planting in an unused area.
“Part of the guerrilla gardening concept is asking for ‘forgiveness not permission’ but I’ve only ever received positive responses from people, so no forgiveness needed,” says Ellen. However, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not planting on private property or a protected area.
Another tip that the two guerrilla gardeners have is to remember that hazards such as dogs and people may disturb your green patch, so it’s best to pick a resilient plant that can cope with the climate with minimal help from you. That means that you won’t have to continue tending to them and can focus your energy on new unused spots.
Van Gestel also suggests taking into account what would benefit wild bees and other pollinators.
Guerrilla gardening and cultivating greener neighborhoods can also strengthen community connections, improve mental health, and increase life spans, and according to Miles, it also “puts the power to transform the streets that people live in in the hands of the people who live there.”