Ecological Anxiety and Community Building

Over the last few weeks we have been conducting research into ecological anxiety and world building with our Green Technicians. At a particularly worrying time when the world is feeling threatened by increasing wildfires, drought, and extreme heat it has been inspiring to hear from our Green Techs about their concerns and hopes for the future.

During the interviews we heard about the range of anxieties felt about the planet and the ways in which these occupy the lives of many young people struggling to cope with the uncertainties of the future. One Green Tech shared:

I am very anxious about the planet’s wellbeing and it’s gotten to the point where I often feel guilty doing anything. … I don’t know what to expect for the future – Will it get better? Will it get worse? I’m constantly thinking should I be doing more even though I know it doesn’t fall on my responsibility solely, but that’s how you feel.

Students noted that working on the Green Technician programme was helpful in challenging some of these anxieties and channelling the possibilities for creating hopeful futures. A core aspect of this was the creation of a space where people could come together to share and discuss their concerns and to think about solutions. Reflecting on the sessions one Green Tech said:

What I loved about it was that everyone was so nice and there were so many like-minded people. I loved going into the little break out rooms and talking about things that were important to us and important to everyone else and connecting ideas.

We are very grateful to all our Green Techs for taking part in this research and being such an integral component of our IGA community. As we reflect further on the experiences shared in the interviews we also think about our own ecological anxieties and the ways in which working with the Green Techs has helped reaffirm our imaginings of hopeful new worlds.

Cement and Sculptures

Work has continued at our Glasgow wellbeing garden in collaboration with GUEST. Over the past few weeks we have been working with our Green Technician volunteers and members of GUEST to repair a stone planter in the garden. This will form a key feature of the wellbeing space where we hope people will be able to sit, relax, and reflect in their garden surroundings.

Working with concrete to resituate and secure the loose stones was more challenging than we first thought but after a few unsuccessful tries (with the wrong concrete!) we finally managed to secure our first stones in place. We all found the task relaxing and suggested that working with such a tactile material, and slowly piecing them together like a giant stone jigsaw, was a therapeutic activity in-and-of itself.

A key part of developing the wellbeing garden has been considering the important connections between nature, mental health, and the arts. Local artists Agnes Jones and Louise Mcvey designed and installed a beautiful steel sculpture to act as a wonderful centrepiece for the wellbeing area.

Over the next few sessions we will continue to repair the planter and to begin planting around the sculpture with a range of fragrant plants such as lavender and freesias. We will then be starting work on digging out an old abandoned planter to make way for planting our new wildflower area.

Learning outdoors this week – why it’s vital.

Learning outdoors – there is nothing more rewarding. This week we’ve been really impressed with the scientific curiosity and enthusiasm of our primary school students in Bradford. The pandemic has forced so much education to be done digitally – so the opportunity to be outdoors has never been more vital!

Outdoor education, at its best, enables young people to discover how our world is built, how life thrives (often against the odds), and how we can make a positive difference to the planet. And all of this can be done by activating the range of our bodily senses – many of which are limited by indoor environments.

Here you can see us clearing the weeds that had taken over the raised beds! We then transplanted the herbs we started indoors, ready to be harvested and taken home this summer!

One observation we made this week was how fascinated students are for the organisms that live in the soil. Lots of worm and beetle-related discussion as we were planting the herbs.