The Garden Project: The Urban Paradox
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

May 12, 2013

Jeroen and Taco stand over roof top garden

Jeroen and Taco stand over roof top garden

small beginnings


you decide…

Project update July 31st, 2013 below!

May 12th, 2013

As I moved into the city of Amsterdam, I find myself, like many, surrounded by a concrete jungle. I live in an apartment that is part of a larger 4 story square comprised by roughly 200 residence and in the center lies a courtyard with a single story bike shed. The shed, built like a bunker has steel girders to support the roof of which there lies nothing above except some small mosses.

Everyone in this 4 story building looks down on this single structure and I thought it a perfect place for a garden. It was not hard to locate a like minded individual who lived in the building and we began by planting zucchini in pots and placing them on the roof. Within a week, two more guys found us out and wanted to expand the garden, why not? We built a planter box and made numerous trips to a nearby park to gather soil in garbage bags, which we then hauled back on our bikes. It is funny how difficult it can be to locate earth within a city. I wrote about the concerns of paving cities over a few years ago.

Within 3 weeks, we had pumpkin, corn, mint, basil, zucchini, berries, carrots, and lettuce planted. A tube stretches from a friend’s nearby window to water everything from his kitchen sink and we were able to locate abandon shovels and watering cans. Suddenly a barren roof takes on color and purpose. Individuals would yell from their windows and ask what we were doing, followed by thumbs up, smiles and an offering of more basil or pots. One girl went back into her apartment and appeared a moment later with some flowers for us to plant. The best part of it was not in the few plants we hoped to grow into food, but the number of people who are presented with a scene before their window that motivates them to think about their own surroundings, their own ability to garden and recycle, and their own ability to enact change.

Then there was the housing authority, the status quo, the system of yesterday. Take it down they said or be faced with eviction! Ah yes, the age old tradition of the new trying to reason with the old, whom clench their fist of power so tight and for so long, they know not how to relax, how to work together. They cited the possibility of leaks to the shed and the fact residents didn’t agree to it. I don’t believe we were putting the roof’s integrity at risk and I have yet to hear of protest from any resident. I can see how they might hold this view though and within it, I see a missed opportunity.

What prevented them from coming to us and saying, “We like the initiative and we just need you guys to get this many signatures from fellow residents within the next two weeks to keep going. Or, show us how you plan on protecting the roof and we’ll consider it.” No, just take it down or move out. So we took it down. But should we give up?

Yesterday we reached a historic day, the day in which the world reached 400ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. I won’t go into why it is a bad thing but it highlights a simple truth, “what we are currently doing is not good enough.” It means that if every single one of us keeps recycling the way we do, keeps riding our bikes the way we do, if we keep living the way we do, we lose. It is a simple sobering and very real truth.

I think as a global community, we need to see this as the first round bell. Everything we have done until now was for training. It was to get us ready for the real fight, the real effort. So in regards to the garden, the answer is of course to keep up the fight. We’re working on finding spots for the pots for now, and we’re going to apply for a permit to clear a hedge and create a garden indefinitely and it may not be in time for this summer, but it will be for next summer and every summer thereafter.

July 31st, 2013 (Update)

Success! After getting many residents to sign a petition for the garden, we just received the following response (translated from Dutch to English).

“I can tell you that we will redecorate as per your request in the garden. We will soon start to perform the following tasks: Placing an outside tap, the removal and disposal of approximately 15 mLonicera (hedges), the fitting of tires and retaining walls, insertion and leveling of 1 m3 garden soil, and giving an initial fertilization.

Sincerely, Ymere (housing authority)”

March 21st, 2014 (Update)

Just got this photo from friends in the Netherlands 🙂

2014-03-16 18.04.43

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