Rebel Gardens: Veggies that Change Policies

Last month I was interviewed by Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper about an unusual case of "guerilla" gardening.  A couple, in the nearby town of Drummondville, had transformed the grassy verge in front of their home into a stunning vegetable garden (and it really is a beautiful garden) [english coverage].

The city council was outraged.

In return for their efforts, the city threatened them with fines of up to $300 per day until they covered over their garden with what regulations said was supposed to be in front of their house... namely: grass. But the story ended well.

Grassroots innovation and experimentation is a powerful thing. Citizens and community groups can roll-out programs that prove innovative concepts and show where outdated regulations are standing in the way.  I've seen that dynamic all over the place from North America to South Africa.

Sometimes cities intentionally work with community groups, other times the exchanges can be more confrontational. But, as I told Le Devoir, even confrontation (if handled well) can be a powerful force for shaking things up and identifying where outdated regulations are holding back good projects.

In this case, Michel and Josée's garden did just that. Responding to a wave of local and on-line support, the municipality announced that new regulations will be introduced to allow residents to grow food in front of their homes.

I'm collecting stories like this of independent small projects that become large collective and system changing forces. So if you've got others, let me know.


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This is a blog for news and views on the future of sustainable cites. A major revamp is in the works. Until then I am keeping this version up as an archive of my past writing.

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