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Let Us Fight the Filth with Forks and Flowers, Guerrilla Gardening

Imagine an alley covered with trash in front of your house. Doesn’t it give you an unpleasant feeling? Actually, many streets and alleys are left with all kinds of filth in the city nowadays. However, most people do not want to take any actions and just wait until someone appears to solve the problem. To make abandoned lands of cities greener, the movement called “Guerrilla Gardening” is beginning to take place all over the world. In this article, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) will provide some useful information about guerrilla gardening for readers who are not familiar with it.

What Is Guerrilla Gardening?

Guerrilla gardening is a social movement to change abandoned lands of city into gardens by planting flowers. It is a world-wide green campaign that practices the motto, “No one knows it, but it stands out conspicuously.” Therefore, the number of members and personal information about them cannot be estimated since just a few of them inform others of their existence. The strength of this movement is that everyone can participate freely if they want to. The target place of guerrilla gardening is any abandoned land that no one tries to take care of. Usually it takes place around sidewalks or streetlights. Recently, lands nearby highway, downtown and housing areas where people thoughtlessly throw away trash have also become the target of guerrilla gardening.

Meaning of Guerrilla Gardening

The most important motto of guerrilla gardening is, “We fight with flowers instead of guns.” According to World Wide Fund for Nature, the size of lands one person uses for the entire life is 2.2 hectares whereas that of lands nature can bear ideally is 1.8 hectares. It means people are going against nature. Although people overuse the Earth, they do not even recognize it and neglect a lot of lands. As a solution to this situation, guerrilla gardeners started to plant various flowers and plants.

Guerrilla gardeners put the value on using the land in accordance with its original purpose. When the land is left empty, it easily becomes the place where garbage piles up and delinquency happens. Thus, this movement tries to alert the owners of the need to properly care for their lands through planting flowers. Surprisingly, people do not throw away trash anymore in the place where this movement has happened. Through guerrilla gardening, people can recognize their surrounding environments and try to work for a better environment.

History and Spread of Guerrilla Gardening

The term, guerrilla gardening was used for the first time by a citizen of New York, Liz Christy and her co-workers by changing vacant ground into a garden in 1970. In 2004, Richard Ranolds, who was a normal worker in England, made guerrilla gardening spread out all over the world. He saw an abandoned flower bed in front of his house by chance and decided to take action because no one tried to take care of it. That night, he cleaned up the trash and planted flowers instead. After his action, people stopped throwing away trash around that flower bed. He posted this change of the flower bed on his blog and it drew huge responses from all over the world. As a result, people who visited his blog began to take part in guerrilla gardening. Now, guerrilla gardeners throughout the world communicate with each other through an official blog and a Facebook page of guerrilla gardening. They post the pictures of their gardening and share the tips for the movement. As more and more people join guerrilla gardening, May 1 was declared as Guerrilla Gardening Day.

International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day

The official name of this day is International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day. This is an annual event on a global scale where guerrilla gardeners plant sunflowers. It began in 2007 by a group of guerrilla gardeners in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. This event started to receive good responses from guerrilla gardeners all over the world and participants are increasing every year. As a result, more than 5,000 people from North America, Europe and Asia joined the movement on May 1, 2010. Although sunflowers can be planted only in limited areas of the northern hemisphere, people around the world commemorate this day by planting suitable plants according to their regions.

Guerrilla gardening in Korea

Interest about guerrilla gardening has increased in Korea as well and there is a site that is used only in Korea. People who want to participate in the movement in Korea are recommended to use this site as a way of gathering people when they need a group or sharing information about guerrilla gardening. If you are interested in guerrilla gardening, visit the site, cafe.naver.com/ggmovement. In addition to individuals, several local regions, companies and universities also try to take part in guerrilla gardening.

The Case of Seongnam City

From October 19 to 22 in this year, vacant flower beds located in Sujeong-gu and Bundang-gu transformed into gardens filled with various flowers. The people who changed vacant lots of streets into the beautiful gardens are 30 local residents and ten guerrilla gardeners. Originally these places were abandoned lands filled with trash. Residents decided to decorate these places as gardens and asked the Seongnam city government to support them. The city government then provided several tools and flowers to decorate gardens and connected them with ten guerrilla gardeners.

The Case of KonKuk University

About 50 Konkuk University students majoring in health and environmental science gathered to alter abandoned lands near the campus. They were divided into 6 groups, and picked up cigarette butts and trash in vacant lots inside and outside of the campus. Thanks to their effort, the abandoned lands were changed into flower gardens. This activity was started by one graduate student of Konkuk University who already participated in planting flowers around his town. He suggested his friends to join the guerrilla gardening and this suggestion brought a big change to Konkuk University.

Tips for Becoming a Guerrilla Gardener

Tip 1. Find Proper Lands to Do Guerrilla Gardening

According to the original purpose of guerrilla gardening, all abandoned land can be the target of guerrilla gardeners regardless of whether it has an owner or not. However, it can be a dangerous idea to general guerrilla gardeners, especially the beginners of guerrilla gardening. This is because it can be an illegal act by infringing on private property rights of land owners in spite of good intention. Thus it is better to be careful when choosing the land. Derelict lands near the roadside or bus stations are recommended to do guerrilla gardening for individual guerrilla gardeners.

Tip 2. Decide Appropriate Plants for Guerrilla Gardening

It is important to decide adequate plants when participating in guerrilla gardening. Since guerrilla gardeners cannot take care of the plants frequently, it is better to choose the species which can germinate and grow well alone. The species which needs steady care of humans has a high probability of withering. Also, exotic plants are not a good choice because they can destroy the ecosystem. Therefore, you had better consider whether this plant can grow alone and does not disturb the ecosystem before starting guerrilla gardening

Let us recall the images on the way to school today. There might be many abandoned places filled with filth that people did not recognize. The SKT hopes that this article can give readers a chance to reflect on their past careless behaviors, and feel the happiness from the beautiful change through their small actions. As the lands near Konkuk Univeristy are dyed green through effort of the students, the lands near Sungkyunkwan University are expected to be full of flowers and green plants.

심은선  Shim9604@skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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