Leading The Way

First published in Green Egg Magazine July 2021

As someone involved in Extinction Rebellion, as a regional coordinator, I could blather on for hours about how we must protect the environment and how bad we all are and point out everything that we are doing wrong. You’ll be relieved to read that I am not going to do that. In conversations with younger people, it is clear that they already understand that there is a huge problem, they do not need convincing.

Most people, apart from those living under a rock or who are just bloody-minded, are already on side as far as the need for change. The question is no longer ‘do we need to change?’ but ‘how do we change?’. What people are now looking for is practical and creative solutions to the challenges of being a human in the twenty first century. Given that we are not going to return to the most basic subsistence life (at least not voluntarily) then we need answers and solutions that will enable civilized life to continue without further wrecking our unique and precious planet.

It should be clear to most of you by now that politicians are full of hot air – this issue was a major thing back in the political conferences of the 1990s. Thirty years later they have just talked and talked, procrastinated and placated their rich pals in corporations, with minor tinkering around the edges of the problem. If you intend to wait for the politicians to come up with practical solutions and implement them you’d be better off trying to hitch a ride to the moon on the back of a flying pig - as it is not going to happen any time soon.

As Pagans we are already supposed to care deeply about this stuff, so in my opinion, we should be one of the groups leading the way and setting a good example on this issue. I remember many years ago, I took out my oil based heating system and replaced it with a wood burning stove with a backboiler for the radiators, I also planted hundreds of trees a year or two beforehand. At the time my neighbours and some of my friends thought I was nuts, however a few years later stoves became fashionable and everyone was installing them, often to supplement their oil or gas heating, if not to replace it completely.

My point is that people who lead the charge on change are often regarded not as pioneers but as insane or stupid. Despite this, leading by example is one of the most powerful ways of convincing others to change the way that they are doing things. This applies to many areas of life – what we do with our homes, the things that we buy (or choose not to buy), how we use the land we live on and our relationship with nature.

Lockdown has been an opportunity for people to look at their own lives and re-evaluate, do some soul searching and think about the things that are really important in life. As a Druid, an interest in nature and the environment is a given, so for me it is second nature to spend time in the garden, to sow seeds and put new plants in and to nurture those that are already there. On a deeper level – the relationship between nature and humanity, the magical connection with the natural world and the archetypes of deity we know and worship is something that can be honed and strengthened in a time when we have more time at home. Gardening is one sure fire way, regardless of your beliefs, of making a very visible change, which other people can see too.

If for instance you had an empty lawn in front of your house and transformed it in a few weeks into a mass of flower beds, planted some trees, put up trellis with climbers etc, do you think no-one would notice? You can be sure people passing by will see the changes, hopefully be impressed, and perhaps some of them might be inspired by you to go home and do the same thing to their wasted patch of land.

I wrote “The Druid Garden” with showing people what to do in mind – even if you have never stepped into a garden before with the desire to do any work. It is intended to teach people about the history of gardening and agriculture, about how soil works, how to create a garden from scratch and the properties and care of the plant world.

Some people might respond by pointing out that they have no garden or a tiny ‘postage stamp’ garden, very little time or no money to spend. These are all impediments, of course, but with a small amount of creativity they can be overcome. For instance – containers, wall hangings, hanging baskets, trellis, window boxes and shelves can all be used to maximise space. Even if you only have a small balcony you can get window boxes that can be fixed to a balcony railing or bookcase type arrangement can be set up to accommodate several window boxes, hanging baskets can be fixed to a wall.

Even if you have very little money you can transform a space. Cheap plants are available from many supermarkets (buy them when they arrive in not later) and if you can buy a small pot of rooting powder then you have the ability to get plants for free in the form of cuttings. You can take cuttings from wild areas and if you are fortunate you will know some people who can donate you some plant material to do this – you don’t need much as usually 1-3 inches per cutting is enough.

Gardening may seem hard at first, if you have not done it before, but it is actually quite fun and relaxing once you get into it. I find it very rewarding, but then I do seem to have ‘green fingers’ anyway, although the most inexperienced and unconfident gardener can learn in a surprisingly short time. The benefits are huge – a beautiful garden full of flowers which feed the bees, a home for a wealth of small creatures, free and healthy food (if you plant fruit and vegetables), herbs that can be used for cooking, medicine and magic, and fresh air, exercise and time in nature.

With a bit of ingenuity and creative thinking gardening can be done very cheaply – it does not need to be an expensive hobby. Apart from providing us with all the benefits I have already mentioned, it sends out a message to the world, to the neighbours and to people passing by – that there is a better way, change can happen and not next decade or whenever the politicians and the corporations decide it can. It can happen now and we can all choose to be part of that if we wish.