There are many tactics for creating a biophilic city. Some citizens follow all of the rules by submitting the proper requests for permits or variances. Other biophilic enthusiasts utilize less conventional methods.  Guerilla gardeners employ nontraditional ways to create green spaces around cities –  using seed bombs and other techniques to create nature where there was none before.

New York City has long been known for its status as a world city, but the 1960s were a turbulent time for the big apple. There was a huge exodus of residents, and the city was facing extreme economic blight. Before long, buildings and lots soon became vacant as owners and developers abandoned the city.

Liz Christy, a new resident to the Lower East Side in the 1970s, saw the amount of vacant land filled with debris and refuse.  One day, Christy saw a young child playing in an abandoned lot at the corner of Bowery and Houston. She told the child’s mother that she thought it was dangerous. The child’s mother quickly responded that Christy should do something about it. Christy gathered a group of neighbors and friends and together. They cleared the lot and created a garden within 6 months.

Christy and her crusaders did not stop there. The Green Guerillas established as a group and went around New York City looking for vacant lots that they could transform into gardens. For areas that were out reach, the Green Guerillas created seed bombs from balloons and Christmas ornaments and threw them over fences to start gardens.

New York is not the only example of Guerilla Gardening in the United States. There have also been many examples across the United States, including Los Angeles, California. The Los Angeles Guerrilla Gardening (LAGG) began in Hollywood, California. The group’s missions are specific to geographic locations within the city. Each member of LAGG has an alias and they all work together to green Los Angeles. The rise of the guerilla gardening movement in Los Angeles has been attributed to the wasteful use of land.

 For more information about the guerilla gardening movement in Los Angeles, check out LA Guerilla Gardening.

The guerilla gardening movement has been taking root internationally, as well. When the police questioned Richard Reynolds, the man behind guerilla gardening in London, on his motives, he simply responded that he was gardening. Many of London’s guerilla gardeners work in the middle of the night to create an element of surprise and avoid confrontation with potential city officials.

For more information on guerilla gardening in London, check out their website.

Guerilla Gardening  is expanding across the world.   This idea that citizens have control over their surroundings has been empowering communities to create green spaces in many of the most unlikely locations. Despite few incentives that allow or promote guerilla gardening, these projects have been sustainable, and residents have enjoyed the benefits of these unexpected green spaces.

Carla Jones, Biophilic Cities Researcher

Carla is a dual candidate for Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning and Masters in Public Health at the University of Virginia.

Images by nycgovparks.org, laguerillagardening.org, and guerillagardening.org.