Articles, Blog

Saving the world with gardening | Sophie Thomson | TEDxAdelaide

November 5, 2019

Translator: Maria Isabel Menendez-Leon
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard I am an obsessive compulsive gardener. (Laughter) And I am totally biased because I genuinely believe
we can save the world with gardening. Literally. We need to start by saving ourselves
first on an individual level, and then we scale it out
to where we can bring about world peace. (Laughter) Saving ourselves with gardening
is easy and obvious. Gardening provides us
with exercise, with relaxation, it provides us with physical
and mental health, and it also gives us optimal nutrition when we grow our own fruits,
veggies and herbs. You know, if you spend
a full day in the garden, that gardening uses
all your major muscle groups. I certainly know, because
when I come in, everything hurts. The interesting thing is,
researchers tell us we can swap a 30-minute gym workout,
for a 45-minute session in the garden. So, if you have your own garden,
you have your own 24/7 gym, with no membership fees and no trying to look good
in lycra or activewear. (Laughter) We all feel stressed
and we look for ways to relax. Gardens give us both passive
and active ways to manage our stress. I want you to think of yourself
at the end of a tough day at work. Perhaps you’ve been stuck
in traffic for a couple of hours, or you’re just going through
a rough patch in life. I want you to imagine yourself
in a beautiful garden. I want you to feel your shoulders drop as the tension and weight
of the world slips away. Take a deep breath and feel
your heart rate slow down. Gardens can be a sanctuary
from our fast-paced crazy lives. And if you’ve had
a really tough day at work, get out your secateurs, and take out your frustrations
on something that needs pruning. (Laughter) I have to admit I have some plants
I brutalized last autumn, and they’re never coming back. (Laughter) The evidence is clear: gardening
is great for our physical health. The benefits range
from improved medical outcomes and faster recovery rates,
to lower our blood pressure. Some researchers actually suggested that we should have a recommended
daily allowance of gardening. I’d actually like
to prescribe it for everyone. Two hours of gardening per day
for each and every one of us, and we could significantly reduce
heart disease and other chronic illnesses. But, you’ve got to get
your hands in the soil. There’s a naturally occurring
soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, which when you ingest it,
triggers serotonin release in your brain. That’s your own happy pill. Do you know the best thing about soil? It’s that you can self medicate,
and you can lower the dose. (Laughter) There’s a growing body of research that shows us that gardening
can help prevent mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression by helping us to deal with stress
before it becomes an issue. And if it does become an issue,
gardening can be used to treat it. Can you believe that half of us,
51% of Australians, use social media as a way
to manage our stress? Do you think that works? (Laughter)
I don’t think so. I think it makes you more stressed,
depressed and isolated. Now, visualize a seed. What could be more optimistic
than planting a seed? Norwegian researchers took patients
with moderate to severe depression and let them do a three-month
gardening course. At the end of that course,
all patients had reduced symptoms. I want you to think back
to your childhood, playing in the back garden. Did you climb trees?
Did you make cubbies? Did you play in the mud?
Did you make daisy chains? The sad fact is that few kids today
get those same experiences, with Australian children spending
four and a half to five hours a day in front of a screen, yet only two hours a day outside. Is it any wonder why 25% of them
are classified as obese or overweight? And 14% have been diagnosed
with mental illness, such as ADHD. As the worldwide nature
play movement tells us, we need to replace screen time
with green time and sunshine. Let’s expand our focus out from ourselves
and our loved ones and families to our backyards. I want you to visualize
your backyard as it is now. But we’re going to start
at the ground level, with the soil. If you’re growing your own veggies, chances are you know
how important good soil is, and you’re making your own compost. That simple act takes food scraps
away from the dump where they rot and then produce methane, which has 21 times the global warming
potential of carbon dioxide. Adding compost to your soil
turns your soil into a sponge, it helps to retain moisture in the soil. That makes your plants grow better. That makes your veggies taste better. And it also feeds the billions
of living creatures that live in the soil, including amazing bacteria
that stock carbon. It’s extraordinary, in one teaspoon
of healthy garden soil there are as many units of life
as there are people on the planet. Let’s look around your backyard. Let’s look at all the plants
in your garden. Look up from the soil. You’ll see veggies, you’ll see flowers,
you’ll see horn shrubs and trees. All plants store carbon, helping to slow
global warming and save the planet. And when you’re growing your own veggies,
suddenly, food miles become food meters. Look at the shady trees and vines. If they’re deciduous and planted as part of a sustainable
house and garden design, what they’re doing is shading
your house in summer and letting the precious winter
sunshine and warmth in in winter. This passive cooling
and heating of your home reduces your energy consumption. And as an added bonus
those leaves can be recycled into compost. Look around your garden. See the birds whip by?
See the butterflies too? Hear the birds singing
and listen to the bees. Backyards can be a biodiversity hotspot. At a time when urban habitat
is under threat, every urban garden
makes a huge difference. One of the things about gardening
is as you get good at it, you invariably end up with
more produce than you can use, and this leads to sharing. At a time when many city people
don’t know their neighbors, sharing produce, seeds,
cuttings and plants helps to build new healthy
relationships and connections. As a saying goes, “When life gives you lemons,
get to know your neighbors.” Or something like that. (Laughter) Organized fruit and veggie swaps expand this out
to a wider group of people. And community gardens
are important here too. These gardens are a hub for the sharing
of knowledge, produce and friendship. They help build vibrant connected
resilience for healthy communities. So, with green growing everywhere, we’ve got green neighborhoods and cities. We’ve got higher property values,
we’ve got lower crime rates, and best of all, we’re
healthier and happier. I want you to think about a world leader. Imagine that person in a garden. Do you think differently of them? (Laughter) Do you think they’d think differently
if they were a gardener? I think they would. Would any of them
ever wage war on another country? I think instead, if they were a gardener, they’d be thinking about that amazing
heirloom pumpkin the other country grows. They’d be more interested in seeds swaps and changing quarantine laws
to make sure that happens. (Laughter) I often think about a story that a dear gardening
friend of mine shared with me about two groups of men who came to Australia from opposite sides
of an international conflict zone. These two groups of men were watching him
as he prepared to plant an apple tree. Forgetting their hostility,
curiosity overcame them, and a dialogue started
between the two groups as they remembered
their love of gardening, and in particular
growing food plants. Gardening builds common ground
and it truly brings us together. Gardening doesn’t only save us,
it can save the world. Wherever you are with gardening,
know every minute spent in your garden, we’re a minute closer
to a sustainable, peaceful world. Thank you. (Applause)


  • Reply Cate's Garden December 19, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Oh my gosh. I LOVED this. (standing up and clapping)

  • Reply Dave Hurtado December 30, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Sophie is just my favourite gardening guru

  • Reply Steve Parker December 31, 2016 at 9:30 am

    In the UK now we have a hospital who has it's own allotments that it prescribes for patients. Also there is a doctor in Wales who has stopped prescribing anti depressants and now prescribes gardening. Not only has this reduced the cost to the health service it has shown marked improvements in patient health.

  • Reply Eleanor Williams December 17, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Wonderful! 🙂 Thank you!

  • Reply Hylia Hoang March 30, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Savin the World by Gardening! Gardening is preserving Biodiversity and trees and species!

  • Reply Mimi Wilkins August 18, 2018 at 4:12 am

    i love her <3

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