As global heating escalates, we can’t go on gardening as usual. It’s time for disruptive gardeners’ questions – and for some serious answers from our ‘experts’.
‘Thought I’d never make it!’ A middle-aged, tanned and fragrant woman slid in through the back door. ‘What’s going on out the front?’ She dabbed sweat from her forehead.
‘We’re under siege,’ grumbled the older, grey-haired man, tapping his foot.
‘I don’t understand… have you already finished the recording?’ She beamed at the trug on the table, overflowing with cards covered in green handwriting. She didn’t notice ‘GR’ written at the top of each one. ‘Any good questions?’
The older man’s eyes rolled behind heavy, wrinkled lids.
‘We’ve not even started,’ said the dapper young man, peering out of the village hall’s kitchen window. ‘Is that your new Jag? Didn’t they see you come in?’
‘Didn’t who see me?’
The older man kicked a table leg. ‘Those eco-nutters out there!’ He pointed to a door leading into the main hall. From beyond it came murmurs of conversation, laughter, squeals, the strum of a guitar.
The door burst open.
A worried-looking young man, carrying a tablet, with a headset strung around his neck, closed it behind him. He lay back against it, eyes closed, armpits soaked, smiling when he saw the missing member of the panel. ‘Oh, you’ve made it. How was the cruise?’
The fragrant woman guffawed. ‘It was fine – apart from the fact that half the gardens we visited were shriveling from a prolonged drought. One was closed due to a wildfire – completely gone. Terribly sad.’ She fanned her face. ‘It was cooler there than here. The sprinklers were out on the runway when we landed – it nudged 43°C on the motorway getting here. So, is the… err… equipment playing up?’
The young woman glued to her phone looked up, frowning. ‘Equipment?’
‘The recording… ?’
‘It’s fine,’ said the sound technician, who was still using the door for support. ‘The problem’s the… audience.’
‘But they sound like a lively crowd!’ gushed the fragrant woman.
‘Oh, they’re lively all right,’ snarled the older man, arms crossed. ‘No doubt they’re taking a breather. Any minute now, they’ll be –’
‘Peat peat peat – stop it now! Pot in peat-free today – save our climate now!’ was chanted merrily from the hall.
‘Look,’ said the technician, ‘they say they’re happy to record the show, but they refuse to ask any other questions.’
‘Who the hell do they think they are?’ The dapper man picked up a handful of the cards, throwing them up in the air. ‘We don’t have to be dictated to like this! I didn’t get where I am by being a bloody tree-hugging eco-nut.’
The middle-aged woman caught one of the falling cards. ‘Will somebody please tell me what’s going on?’ She read out the question, ‘What are the panel doing in their own gardens to help put the brakes on our climate emergency? Not this again,’ she sighed. ‘Can’t we just leave stuff like this out? We usually do.’
‘Err… try another.’ The dapper man handed her another card: Do any of the panellists still use climate-wrecking peat-based compost? If you do, how can you justify it?
Then another: Which peat-free composts give the best results?
And another: How can we spread the message that using peat is making global heating worse?
And: Why are we still using peat five years after our last government declared a ‘climate emergency’?
The fragrant woman frowned. ‘Are they all… ?’
The technician shrugged, nodding. ‘Over 300, all with a question about climate – and a few on neonics and why we’re using them again post-Brexit.’
‘Why are we waiting, our planet is frying, oh why are we waiting, when our bees are dying?’ came the good-natured chorus from the hall.
There was a tap on the door.
The gardening experts eyed each other warily, and the technician opened the door.
A small boy and girl held up a tray. ‘We thought you might like ice creams! They’re vegan – and organic.’ Each child had a ‘G’ and an ‘R’ painted on each cheek. The girl twiddled her ‘I’m with Greta’ badge. ‘Please come and do the answers. We think it’s really important to talk about climate breakdown. It matters a lot for when we grow up.’
‘Err… thanks.’ The technician took the tray, smiling. ‘We’re just… deciding.’
‘All right,’ said the boy, ‘we’ll tell everyone.’ The children scampered away.
‘Vegan rubbish,’ spat the scowling old man, batting his ice cream away.
‘I’ll have yours,’ smiled the young woman. ‘They’re delicious.’
‘… Pot in peat-free today – save our climate now! …’
‘What does ‘GR’ stand for?’ asked the fragrant woman, licking her cucamelon sorbet.
‘It’s a sideshoot of ER,’ snarled the old man, loosening his floral tie. ‘You know – those climate idiots who’ve been making life difficult for the rest of us.’
‘Extinction Rebellion,’ said the young woman. ‘They’ve formed a new group calling themselves Garden Rebellion. They’re trying to raise awareness about global heating by disrupting gardening as usual.’
‘… Our planet is frying, oh why are we waiting…’
‘Why pick on us?’ said the dapper man. ‘We’re supposed to be gardening experts, not flaming eco-warriors.’ His designer T-shirt had darkened with sweat. ‘Look at all the trouble they caused at Chelsea Flower Show with their stupid banners every time a camera came out.’
‘At least an amnesty on fossil fuel-powered equipment’s on the cards, thanks to the Greens in the new coalition,’ said the young woman. ‘And anyway, it’s not just us. Look.’
The live news report on her phone showed scantily-clad crowds lying down outside the entrance to the UK’s biggest garden centre chain’s flagship store. They wore garlands of fresh flowers around their necks. The police were carrying away protestors dressed in brown plastic sacks inscribed with ‘Using peat compost kills people!’ in big letters.
‘That’s just down the road,’ said the fragrant woman.
‘They’re protesting at all their stores,’ said the young woman. ‘Some Garden Rebellion folk are out on the bogs, too. Here and in Europe.’ She shook her head. ‘Peat’s being ripped up like mad during these droughts… it’s just a crazy cycle. When will they get that more peat means more carbon dioxide means more climate chaos?’
‘So everyone who applied for tickets for today…’ mused the fragrant woman.
‘… is part of this Garden Rebellion,’ nodded the technician. ‘It’s really cool how they’ve organised themselves.’
‘Whatever happened to good old questions about slugs, or how to prune a sodding wisteria?’ spat the old man. ‘We’ll have lost the sodding plot if we go along with all this climate change cobblers. Not to mention our jobs!’
‘Wow,’ said the young woman, frowning at her phone. ‘It’s just hit 45°C at Wisley… they’ve had to close because of a Heatwave Order… Looks like the M3’s melting, too.’
Everyone, except the sweating old man, looked at the cards scattered over the table and floor, and then at each other.
The sound of children – running, chasing, laughing and squealing – cut through the hot, stifling air.
Text and images © John Walker. Map: NASA Earth Observatory
Find John on Twitter @earthFgardener