Green Thumb

July 24 2012

​Green thumb. Not words normally associated with me. However I brushed this aside when I caught up with Stuart Muir Wilson, at Glebe Gardens in Launceston last week. Stuart is the green machine and sustainability brain behind the most environmentally aware installation forming part of Junction Arts Festival in 2012- Guerrilla Gardening!

Thanks to inspiration from Grandfather Bill Mollison, Stuart is completing his master of architecture. His thesis is exploring how permaculture can fit into the UN criteria for development like America - a pretty massive concept for the ordinary non-green thumb. To date Stuart has put his green thumb where his mouth is, partaking in International Permaculture Conferences, volunteering with indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon, and more recently, teaching permaculture, humanitarian design and gardening techniques to students in Mexico. The work in Mexico was significant, and lead to a community garden run by 400 local volunteers. Stuart has also managed to pick up an invaluable mentor high in the ranks with the United Nations for Latin America. I’ve learned pretty quickly, that Stuart is pretty passionate about creating sustainability, particularly within communities where the average wage is low.

Stuart came to Junction Arts Festivals attention through the community garden he created outside the School of Architecture and Design’s Inveresk campus. Though initially an ‘illegal’ community garden, the local university community got behind the project, and now the garden is legal, partly supported financially by the University of Tasmania and tended to monthly by a team of volunteers.

Stuart said: “An awesome result, we expected to be told to take it away, expected it to be vandalised. But neither of those things happened. Such a positive thing, people have really embraced it, it’s awesome”. The whole aim of the garden is to grow food to be used and eaten by anyone who needs it. Currently you can find a selection of winter veggies growing up a storm, ready for the picking.

The Junction Arts Festival project aptly named Guerrilla Gardening will involve a large number of shipping pallets and tyres, loads of donated soil and plants from the kind people at Glebe Gardens, random spaces in the city, and I have reason to believe it may include “a beautiful park in the sky” where you might least expect it. Stuart is pretty excited that the local Launceston City Council have been so supportive, and it has given him a project to be involved in that is “unique for Launceston, probably for Tasmania”. Stuart’s stance is that it shows us how we can use the city differently, if only for a week.

What is Stuart hoping to achieve from the Guerrilla Gardening project? Stuart said: “…from a basic level, for people to reframe what they think about public space, such as a car park. It was a car park; now it is growing food. Could this be permanent? What are the possibilities with that - making more productive urban public space, or more environmentally aware public space”.

At the very least I’m feeling inspired to take off my woollen gloves and get my hands (including my thumbs) a little bit green…