Gardening: From the Paleolithic to the Neolithic
Over the 4th of July weekend, I enjoyed a visit from Michelle Lin, landscape architect and former Detroiter who now lives in NYC and builds rooftop gardens.
As we talked, I thought about how new societies evolve from gardening, and about how ingenious human beings have been over the millennia in finding new spaces for gardening when space on the ground becomes unavailable.
Two-and-a-half million years ago, when agricultural/Neolithic societies evolved from hunting-and-gathering/Paleolithic ones, all the great religions were born, each with a version of the Golden Rule.
Ten years ago, children’s book author Paul Fleischman wrote “Seedfolks,” a story about the diverse community that evolved out of the planting of a seed by a little Vietnamese girl in a vacant lot in a desolate Cleveland neighborhood.
I wrote a column about the book and entitled it “Growing Vegetables and Spirituality.” Here is an excerpt:
“Thirteen very different individuals — old, young, Haitian, Hispanic, Asian, African American. Living near a rat-infested, garbage-filled vacant lot in Cleveland, Ohio — they are transformed from strangers into neighbors because Kim, a little girl from Vietnam, dug into the hard-packed soil to plant a few bean seeds in memory of her deceased father.”
In prehistoric times, it happened with hunters and gatherers. A few decades ago, in this book, it happened with ethnically diverse Americans.
And now it is happening in Detroit and all over the nation with the rapid spread of urban agriculture.