nature, landscape & alienation - digging in the city a4

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Is it through the technological instrumentalisation of our landscape that mankind has alienated itself from the natural world from where it came? How would it be possible to re-engage with Nature from the midst of our alienated landscapes?


Andrew Mark Ensor 2007 Diploma Architecture: Dissertation University of Westminster, London Supporting

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AbstractIs it through the technological instrumentalisation of our landscape that mankind has alienated itself from the natural world from where it came? How would it be possible to re-engage with Nature from the midst of our alienated landscapes? Climate change has been acclaimed as mankinds greatest long term challenge. The reality of this threat is increasing year on year, with an annual death toll in the thousands. We realise we have disturbed Gaia, and that action needs to be taken but it would seem that the course of action is unclear. Is it possible that our direction is unclear because we have lost touch with nature and ourselves though alienation, as described by Marx? Hegel illustrates the elusive, paradoxical subject of Nature and leaves us wondering whether the human Spirit is part of nature, or alien to her. Matters are further complicated if we consider nature has a Spirit too, as suggested by Lovelocks Gaia Theory. Our course of action seems to hinge on this unanswerable riddle. This essay sets out to discuss the issues influencing our advanced capitalist society, to shed light on the cause of this dislocation of perspective towards our position within nature. Drawing on the writings of James Carrier and Martin Heidegger, this essay will consider the influence of our landscape and environment natural and otherwise and plot its influence upon our behaviour, as we build up towards an ever more alienated existence from our natural environment. After examining historic examples of cultures in search of the human Spirit presaged in Nature, I will then identify key activities attempting to turn the tide of this form of alienation. In particular the quasi-activist group in London, the Guerrilla Gardeners. This essay then concludes by contemplating the long term future of the movement, and its possible outcomes, towards an existence engaging with the concept of Nature.



ContentsAbstract. iii List of Illustration..... vii Acknowledgments viii Why all the Worry Over Global Warming?......................... Our Greatest Threat? Common Sense Nature.. The World We Perceive What is Nature? All Life on Earth Landscape of Engagement... Positive and Negative Feedback Our Landscape In Choosing a Natural Landscape In Choosing a Technological Landscape Alienation. The disembodiment of the Spectator and Spectacle An Alienated Viewpoint Spirit and Nature.. Presaged in Spirit; Presaged in Nature Natural Farming Man and Nature Connected 1





Digging in the City 34 Emerging from the Belly of the Beast Cultivating our Landscape Guerrilla Gardeners Civil Disobedience Dig for Victory Bibliography..... 49 Appendix.. 55


List of IllustrationsFront Cover: Beard, K. Beetle on circuit board Image 1, What problem: Hurricane Katrina Satelite Image 2, Nature: Adastra, Earth and Stars Image 3, Landscape & Engagement: Merandon, T.Cyborg Image 4, Alienation: Flach, T. Businessman looking out window, forest view repeated on laptop Image 5, Spirit and Nature: Saquar , J.L. Sunlight shining through misty woodland Image 6, Digging in the City: Luedke & Sparrow. Mature man bent over shovelling earth in garden Image 7, CPULs: Viljoen, A. & Bohn, K. CPULS Plate 8 Image 8, Guerrilla Gardening New Cross: Reynolds, R. & Ensor, A. Image 9, Mayday 2000 Parliament Square: Renee, L. Image 10, Where has it gone: Veiga, L. London Skyline Back Cover Image: Ministry of Agriculture. Dig for Victory.


Regards to gardeners: digging, planting and sowing in the city.

To those who, instead of grumbling and shouting at the television, get out on the street and do something about it,


Why all the worry over global warming? It seems to me that, with the current massive gas price increases, we should welcome a reduction in the need to switch on the heating. Also, if it leads to more polar ice melting, then great! That will mean more fresh water available to fill our reservoirs. Whats the problem?1A readers letter in Londons Metro newspaper


Trumper, J. Catastrophe? Bah! The Metro 16 March 2006


Our Greatest Threat? With the fairly recent death of Bob Hunter,2 co-founding activist of the global environmental group Greenpeace,3 it almost seems ironic to hear James Lovelock's apocalyptic view on climate change: We are past the point of no return,4 in The Independent newspaper eight months later. The synchronous nature of these two events, coincidental as they may seem, raises a great number of questions as to what went wrong. Did Hunter fail? Was the message not heard? Why did the masses not listen? 'We are in our present mess through our intelligence and inventiveness'5, continues Lovelock, atmospheric physicist and ex-NASA scientist6. Like drug addicts, we have ignored the warnings and the inconvenient truth: is it possible that the path we thought would lead us to peace, strength and stability has locked us into the downfall of society as we know it?

The threat of climate change hardly needs reiterating; it is accepted in most nations that climate change is a man-made crisis. However, under the Bush administration, the USA has only recently accepted that man-made actions are the cause of global warming;7

their delayed acceptance led

America to infamously fail to ratify the Kyoto Treaty.8 Chat shows, newscasts, podcasts, movies, newspapers and magazines across the western world and beyond are raising the green question; How are we going to get out of this mess? on virtually a daily basis. The proposition of rising sea levels9, backed up by constant stories of melting ice caps10, glaciers11, sea ice12 and increased flooding13, leaves little to the imagination; particularly for those who suffer the trauma of annual flood damage and the expensive residue of hikes in household insurance left when the tides subside. Rises in sea level and a mean temperature increase are predicted to disrupt weather patterns leading to an increase in hurricanes, explaining the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.14 Katrina gave us a taste of the economic and social devastation that is likely if climate change is not addressed. US oil prices spiralled15 as the New Orleans refinery was flooded along with the rest of the city; leaving a tragic scene of destruction in its wake. Social degradation, debauchery and anarchy prevailed as gangs,

2 3

4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Vidal, J. The Original Mr Green The Guardian 04 May 2005 Greenpeace is an environmental NGO founded in 1971, whose funding is entirely though individual donations. The organisation was started after a small group of environmentally concerned Americans took to the sea in a barely sea-worthy trawler to position themselves in a nuclear testing zone in the Pacific Ocean. This attracted great media coverage and prevented the bomb from being tested. This initial direct action was to be a model for Greenpeaces ethos of non-violent direct action to highlight environmental injustices. [ibid.] McCarthy , M. Environment in Crisis: 'We are past the point of no return' The Independent 16 January 2006 Lovelock, J. The Revenge of Gaia London: Penguin 2006 p6 Orrell, D. Gaia Theory: Science of the Living Earth [online] [accessed 25 October 2006] Townsend, M. & Harris, P. Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us The Guardian 22 February 2004 Karon, T. When it Comes to Kyoto, the U.S. is the "Rogue Nation" Time 24 July 2001 Lovgren , S. Warming to Cause Catastrophic Rise in Sea Level? National Geographic News 26 April 2004 Highfield, R. Arctic ice cap 'will disappear within the century' The Telegraph 05 October 2005 Lean, G. Cracking up: Ice turning to water, glaciers on the move - and a planet in peril The Independent 22 October 2006 Milmo, C. Polar bears' hunting season threatened by break-up of ice sheet The Independent 15 September 2006 Smith, L. Flood threat 'puts cities at risk of becoming Britain's New Orleans' The Times 23 August 2006 Henderson, M. Global warming linked to increase of hurricanes The Times 16 September 2005 Healey, J. Storm worsens oil, gas problems USA Today 29 August 2005


violence and looting16 became the fabric of the new social structure, with citizens liberated from the watchful eye of the Louisiana judicial system.

Apart from those directly affected by these disasters, the rest of the world watches while sitting comfortably in front of our television screens in the warmth and safety of our living rooms. The similarity of these disasters to scenes from movies and video games could enable us to detach ourselves from the reality of these terrible events, rendering the devastation as mere background wallpaper to our daily lives. The implications of climate change are devastating, as demonstrated in the flooding in Bangladesh in 2004; how could one safeguard against the strength of natural forces? The increased frequency of these disasters could send our economic system into collapse which is a thought maybe too incomprehensible for most. Tony Blair has announced that climate change is the greatest long term threat facing mankind17, while the World