Gardening: Cultivating Wisdom.

Photo of book cover.

Gardening: Cultivating Wisdom edited by Dan O’Brien, from the series Philosophy for Everyone edited by Fritz Allhoff, Wiley-Blackwell 2011.

So here I am, the wild food proponent, reviewing another gardening book. How did that happen? Well sometimes one thing leads to another. After reviewing The Resilient Gardener, I was offered for a review copy. Considering it covers gardening and philosophy, I was pleased to read it.

While this isn’t a super specialized foraging or permaculture how to manifesto, like I often read, it is a very good book that would be of considerable interest to anyone who wants to learn more about people’s relationship with the natural world, especially in the context of the garden.

The book is comprised of numerous essays by different authors, each with their own unique angle. I am very impressed that Permaculture is mentioned at least once by name, and hunter-gatherers, foragers, and horticulturalists, are discussed in many of the essays. Also, each author brings their own definition of gardening, and some of them are broad enough to include the most cutting edge forest gardens as well as many primitive peoples’ land management techniques. Even the essays with a more narrow view of what a garden is had interesting thoughts of our interaction with plants and how that impacts us philosophically.

Of special interest to me were the essays grouped together in section two. These four deal with the political and hierarchical nature of gardens in specific times and places. They cover a range of topics such as how early the British and early Mediterranean Empires used gardens as tools to maintain social inequality to the effect of urban allotments on the level of political engagement of the working poor in the United Kingdom.

Another essay that I found enlightening was about the attempt of Epicurean philosophers to replicate the positive aspects of primitive peoples’ lives, while continuing to benefit from the security provided by the cities of their day. Their critique of society and their understanding of history are remarkably similar to current Primitivist thinkers.

Anyway, these are just a few examples among the many thought provoking essays in this quality book.

Just a quick personal note, now that my first photography show has come and gone, I should be able to post more frequently again. The plants have been coming to life so fast that I am at risk of developing a serious backlog. I’ll try to keep up, but get out and see for yourself what is happening all around us in our yards, our gardens, and out in the woods.

Thanks for reading,

Nate

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