1996, Louise Allen, MSc Social And Therapeutic Horticulture

Funding for MSc Horticulture at the University of Reading, specialising in Social and Therapeutic Horticulture

By Louise Allen

It would be easy at this point to outline my reasons for wishing to study for this course, but instead I have chosen to focus on the highlight of the course, which was the chance to carry out a long term piece of research. In particular I have given the background to the subject that I have researched.

M.Sc. Thesis — Think Global, Act Local ; Local Authorities and Agenda 21

The walls in the Tokyo subway used to be plastered with advertising posters. The authorities, aware of Japan’s shortage of wood pulp, searched for ways to reduce this wastage of paper. They quickly found an `environmental solution’, they mounted video screens on the walls and these now continuously bombard passengers with commercials — paper problem solved (Sachs, 1995). This is just one example of what is happening around the world.

The Earth Summit took place during my time as a student at Kew and it was generally felt at the time that the Earth Summit had focused peoples’ minds on the environment.Yet here we are in the nineties approaching sustainability through development. It is almost as though we are now so well down the path of development that we cannot think of tackling sustainability by any other means.

Countries, especially those in the Third World, are very protective of their right to develop. This was one of the major points raised at Rio. Malaysia’s resistance to the forest declaration, Saudi Arabia’s attempt to sabotage the climate convention and President Bush’s cutting remark that the lifestyle of the U.S. would not be up for discussion at Rio all illustrate this major problem. Yet how can we, with our luxurious lifestyles start to lecture those less fortunate about why

they should not chop down the rainforest. Is this not what we have already done to the ancient woodlands that existed in this country centuries ago? Are we using the well known phrase “Don’t do as I do, do as I tell you” and expecting them to listen to us?

The issue of Rio and Agenda 21 has featured within the lives of many of us during the last few years, yet there are a far greater number of people who are simply unaware that it even exists. With this in mind my thesis for my M.Sc. at Reading has been to examine the methods used by local authorities to get the community involved. As an educator this is very close to my heart. I now spend my time convincing young people of the reasons that biodiversity, ecology, botany and horticulture are important in our everyday lives.

“Local authorities, as the level of government closest to people, have a vital role in educating and mobilising the public to get behind the goals of Agenda 21.”

This short statement from Agenda 21 emphasises the importance of local involvement in Agenda 21. Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 aims to encourage a more sustainable approach to living, concentrates on the role of local authorities and is concerned specifically with the need to find out the views of local people involving as many different kinds of people in the processes of preparing the strategies — women, young people, indigenous people and those with their own cultures.

As I write this report I am midway through my thesis, yet I have already discovered some innovative and enterprising projects to raise awareness of sustainability, yet at the same time I have discovered some mind numbingly boring initiatives which are failing miserably.

I shall end this brief look at Agenda 21 by asking you all whether you are aware of what is happening within your local authority to address the issue of Agenda 21? If you do not know, it may well be that your local authority has simply not yet involved your community within Agenda 21. What is extremely worrying is that without this community involvement it is impossible to create a more sustainable way of living. Sustainability is essential if we are to ensure that future generations have a planet to live on and a planet to love.

References — Sachs, W., 1995. Global Ecology, Zed Books.

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