I was in Edmonton, North London, talking to a school gardening club about sustainable food growing the other day when I was asked this question : I must have been banging on, as I do, about maintaining soil fertility, working with nature etc, when one of the mums asked me this : “Is it true you can smell in the air when it is going to rain? Because all my friends say I am crazy, because I can tell” and she literally punched the air, and said “Yessssssss” when I told her that you can definitely smell and feel moisture in the air ahead of rain, and that what the wind is doing is also a good indicator of local weather systems.
It reminded me again of how alienated most people are from their environment : all other animals use their senses instinctively and without question : if they feel a storm coming, they want to take shelter.
If you grow up in the country, like I did (see below!), in the seventies, when parenting was a lot more ‘free range’ than now, then maybe it does give you more understanding of how nature works. If you are out in the woods a mile from home without even an acrylic jumper, some idea of how to anticipate weather systems can come in handy!
I don’t see, through my work with schools, very much awareness of sustainable or whole life cycle growing systems, but an awful lot of “But can you buy that in B&Q?”, and ” we just wanted to grow something quickly, so the kids could see it”, and ” I don’t think we have time for that in the school day”. But just teaching children that if you plant a seed and water it, it will grow, magical as it is, is only the beginning of the story.
I am happy that gardening is part of the national curriculum, and I appreciate that capitalism has burrowed into all our souls, and made us feel that we can have all that we want, right now and forever, but I think we need to teach the next generation that ensuring food security is not only more complex, but a lot more exciting than simply shopping in a different retail shed.