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Gardens and stewardship

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Zagorski, TC 2007 , 'Gardens and stewardship', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The primary focus of this thesis is the local suburban garden. The interactions among gardeners, gardening activity, ethical viewpoints, and environments that take place in this setting are investigated from within the context of the historical traditions and contemporary understandings of stewardship. The foundational premise of the thesis is that people are motivated by an ecological impulse that draws them to be involved with the Earth. It is argued that the ecological impulse is manifested in the space of the local suburban garden. It is also argued that a stewardship ethic is evident in much contemporary gardening practice. It is further argued that this gardening stewardship ethic extends from the genius loci of the garden to inform a broader global ecological impulse. Ultimately gardens are portals through which to examine the changing relationship between the human and the more than human world.
Throughout the history of humanity, interactions between humans and the more than human world have resulted in humans altering that world often with damaging consequences. Since hunter-gatherer and early agricultural times, the degree of modification was marginal. More recently however the scale of modification has intensified, manifesting itself as an ‘ecological crisis’. This crisis represents a major rupture in the relationship between humans and the more than human world. Some gardens are also identified as contributing to the crisis. Stewardship, as a time honoured and well practiced code of conduct towards the garden, is presented as an ethical basis for addressing the rupture in that relationship.
This study first explores the antecedents and contemporary meanings of stewardship as a means to investigate the significance of gardens in shaping human relationships to with the more than human world. Second, data on species composition and richness in gardens was obtained and used as critical material evidence for exploring gardeners’ attitudes to, and practices within gardens in Hobart Tasmania. Third, qualitative interviews and case studies with gardeners investigated reasons why people garden, and examined how gardening practices reflect a sense of stewardship. Themes evident in the interviews revolved around gardeners’ urge to garden, the implementation of specific gardening practices that have an ethical basis and respect the integrity of the garden, the recognition of the interconnectedness of gardeners, other life forms and processes within the garden, and gardeners’ sense of relationship with their garden connecting with the greater garden of Earth. Literature on stewardship was used to inform the analysis of interview material to identify various manifestations of a sense of stewardship in attitudes and practices of gardeners. It is concluded that the garden is a site where various manifestations of the sense of stewardship are evident and that these manifestations of stewardship inform a greater ecological consciousness.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Zagorski, TC
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Copyright © 2007 the author

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