There is no doubt, that at least for me, gardening is not only a stress reliever, but also a positive use of my time. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than planting seeds, watching them grow and then reaping the rewards, in terms of beauty, nutrition, exercise and frugality. That is why the focus of today’s post is a little bit more technical, in part to make up for the rather “fluffy” poem I posted yesterday, but also as a basis for what I hope to be an interesting concept and discussion.
Is it possible, that hidden among all these benefits, is the more covert result of a decrease in criminal activity among areas that have more green space and gardens, both vegetable and otherwise? According to the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics‘ total crime index (covering nine crimes, all defined as “violent”), the incident rate per 100,000 people in rural areas 1,908.7. For areas defined as urban, this figure skyrockets to 4,409.1.
In the interest of providing a well-rounded analysis, there are other obvious reasons why the rate may be much higher for urban areas, including higher poverty rate, greater population density, ability to be more anonymous in a heavily populated area and natural conflicts that would arise as a result of a more diverse society.
For my purposes, however, I’d like to propose the idea that outdoor activity, specifically gardening, reduces crime. A common motive for many crimes (especially larceny, theft, burglary, prostitution and drug sales) lies in economic gain. Whether for the criminal artist themselves, or for the benefit of family, when resources are scarce, it would stand to reason that the potential for gain may outweigh the risk of getting caught.
Being that food is one of the most basic necessities, isn’t it possible that the ability to provide fresh and nutritious food for oneself and family would reduce the drive to commit such a crime?
Programs teaching urban residents basic farming and tools for self-sufficiency are cropping up all over the nation, but Michigan, which has rather unfortunately become the fishbowl of downtrodden contemporary society, is pioneering a new program just outside of Flint, to do just that with urban youth. Another program, Infuse Detroit, is engaged in a mission to take unused urban land and turn it into something beautiful and productive. Check out the video: (Just a note: This isn’t my video, I can’t take credit for it…it was made by Infuse Detroit)
If you’re still not convinced that gardening reduces crime, there are so many more reasons why its a notion to consider. The psychological effects alone of being in nature versus an urban environment provide enough material for an entire post in and of itself. I intend to do a post soon discussing this, but if you reeeally can’t wait, check out “To Dwell Among Friends: Personal Networks in Town and City.” Its a pretty in depth read, but has a lot of great information. Of course, I’ll be paraphrasing it in my post, so if you can wait until then, that’s cool too.
In the meantime, just a note: I’m not discounting urban life in any way. I went to school in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and it was one of the best experiences of my life. What I am discounting, though, are empty lots, vacant alleys and barren rooftops. There are so many untapped resources not only in urban areas, but suburban and rural ones too.What if, instead of being relics of run down, post-industrial society, they could be vibrant, colorful beacons of hope and prosperity? (Besides, compared to many other campaigns and pieces of legislation that have come out in recent years, the cost would be minute, and the reward would be a potential better quality of life for everyone)
Are there any programs in your towns or cities geared towards getting the word out there about the positive effects of gardening? I live in a fairly rural area, so the cat’s pretty much out of the bag by me, but I love to hear stories about community gardens, school gardens and just about any urban greening project!