Science tells us what happens to the environment and why, but not how to create change. Environmental justice is rooted in the values that connect people to the Earth and each other. For gardeners, the land provides food and beauty, joining people, the past, faith, and action.
Racial divisions impact garden clubs. For whites, clubs were social and focused on flower arranging. African Americans, many raised on farms, once avoided gardens but later saw them as sources of spirituality and connections to history. As the city changes, clubs unite in concern for their legacy as well as the future impact of climate change.
Gardeners discuss and engage their plants and places in different ways, requiring those wishing to learn from the garden to ground themselves in the languages, culture, and histories of gardeners. Gardeners reveal ways to re-engage with Durham’s past and build alliances to invest in neglected and changing neighborhoods. Justice means understanding, preserving, and teaching different gardening histories.
Our Point of View
From our community partners, we learned that environmental justice must include gardeners and reflect their knowledge and relationships to the Earth, family, and community. Gardens foster spirituality and empower action by creating community. Race, class, and connections to the natural world vary among gardeners, as do the reasons why they cultivate plants. Gardeners understand challenges, from an untimely frost to gentrification to climate change.
The Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice promotes dialogue and storytelling as tools for tackling enduring inequalities and injustice. The Duke students who partnered with us uncovered tremendous potential for gardeners in our community to share stories across lines of race and class to find common concerns about the future of our planet. We learned that the advocacy required to heal the planet begins by building relationships based on deeper understandings about the past, human nature, and inequity.
—The Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice
—Duke Campus Farm
—Duke Human Rights Center