RHS GLOBAL IMPACT GARDEN
RHS Hampton Court Palace Festival 2021
This garden addresses the 6th mass extinction threat to our planet, caused by our continual exploitation and destruction of its natural resources. Its purpose is to jolt people into both an understanding of the severity of the crisis and an appreciation of the scale of the behavioural change that we need to affect.
We have always believed that such radical change in our lifestyles was too hard, but our recent response to the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that a radical change in behaviour is possible. Could this be the jolt that will instil humility, hope and inspiration to save our natural world and our own species from mass extinction?
'Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind' by Yuval Noah Harari, has been the inspiration behind my this garden. This compelling book gives fascinating insights and explanations into how our own species has come to dominate the world over such a short period of time.
Yuval explains how our revolutions in agriculture, industry and science, which we deem to be our greatest achievements, have changed us from roaming hunter-gatherers, and highlights the dependencies and inherent weaknesses that this has created.
The agricultural revolution encouraged us to create settlements and harness the power of growing our own crops. This forever changed our natural landscapes as the human population thrived from extra nourishment, leading to commercial crop production and limiting biodiversity as a result.
The industrial revolution, for all its advancements in infrastructure and manufacture, was fuelled by our exploitation of the world's natural resources and left us reliant on using polluting fossil fuels for more than a century. The scientific revolution saw our species explore the world in new ways, across our vast oceans, across the sky and even into space!
Our successes have brought us to this time of reckoning, where we now realise that our exploitation and destruction of the earth's natural resources will eventually lead to the extinction of our natural world as we know it, and ultimately, our species too.
It is well known amongst scientists that planet earth has experienced five mass extinction events in its prehistory, including The Ice Age and the Extinction of the Dinosaurs among them. We now are on the brink of the sixth.
Cultivating Defiant Compassion
Benjamin Vogt's book "A New Garden Ethic' is a fascinating insight into why we have been so slow to respond to the environmental threat of climate change and mass extinction.
Climate change for most of us, creates unbearable anxiety and despair for humankind, leaving us in a state of paralysis. The greater the scale of the problem, the more the threat seems distant and abstract and as a result, we experience a type of 'psychological numbing' otherwise known as 'compassion fade'.
I realised that the way to break our 'compassion fade', would be to shock the public's emotions to the core, so that they can feel a deep sense of grief. Grief comes from love, the love of something lost.
'Shock and Awe'
Having worked as a commercial airline pilot myself, I was drawn to the idea of using the drama of a crashed aircraft to bring a sense of shock and awe to emphasize the concept behind this garden design.
After all, to see one of mankind’s greatest achievements in science and technology broken and destroyed conveys a powerful sense of loss, especially given that our thirst for air travel has exacerbated both climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, instead of sidelining the uncomfortable negative feelings that climate change and habitat loss evoke.
This garden hopes to make people feel grief, loss, anger and humility. We must accept these emotions, if we are to shatter this paralysis and be inspired to take action to avoid a 6th Mass Extinction and save our own existence on Planet Earth.