Garden World

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Book (draft): GardenWorld. Doug Carmichael.

This book is based on the idea that across the political spectrum, people agree for 80% on what is the good life, and what kind of policies and institutions would be needed to achieve such goals. The positive vision it implies can be described as a GardenWorld.



"GardenWorld is a balance between growing people and growing society in ways consistent with nature. Not a balance of maximum exploitation but a relationship between humans and the natural world that, from a human perspective and with evidence from a healthy environment, enhances both. From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the gardens in Persian miniatures, the public parks of Paris, Constable's English rural landscapes, the gardens of the impressionists, the cultivated environments of Japan, to Central park and the various projects from college campuses to the entrance to Yosemite or Niagara Falls, we have a great tradition to build on that is attractive, with nearly universal assent. Olmstead led the way in all these. We are fortunate in the US that many of his projects, best known for Central Park in Manhattan, set a direction of making the US into such a cultivated world of balance, integrating humans into nature as a place of meditation, food, movement, beauty, connection with birds and critters who we feel closer to, rather than the frontier world of fighting the nature that held bears and wolves, snakes and mountain lions, and the grimmer images from fairy tales and dragon slaying that supported urban paranoia about "the wild". There are so many past and existing models to lead us onward. For example, the Italian city of Mantua, home of Monteverdi, was a multi-islanded city. Aldus Huxley said it was the most romantic city in the world, a lake city of floating islands interconnected by beautiful causeways. Rising sea levels, instead of being seen as a threat, could be seen as an extraordinary opportunity. Water is a highly desirable characteristic of the environment, including the ocean. If rising sea water were allowed into low lying areas and turn it into shorelines for recreation and water for aqua-culture and new attractive landscapes, the whole issue turns around. What is important is to make sure that the new shoreline is at least as long or longer than the old one and new uses are developed. GardenWorld is not a one-size-fits-all planning task like Le Corbusier’s nineteen twenties plan to replace much of Paris with a new garden city. For GardenWorld should be an evolution over time responsive to the existing buildings, the settings, preservation, and the emerging possibilities that people discover as GardenWorld unfolds. We are looking for organic growth that integrates people and nature, a mixture of ease and innovation, creativity and restful appreciation. Not narrowing of the range of activities, but supportive, from bustle of our ambitions to the sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care. GardenWorld, by allowing for continuity between the built and the natural gives much greater scope for design and living conditions than is typical of even the best “communities” or new towns being designed now. It is not to design bounded but creatively interconnected pieces of terrain. Too many designed communities are conspicuously framed by new roads and inside the whole development looks slightly abstract, as though it is still on the drawing board. There is no reason why a cultivated environment cannot be kind to technology, art, animals and plants at the same time, and therefore much kinder to us as well.

The GardenWorld ideas have a long history in America from the “City on a hill”, the image of good living and cultural leadership, of early puritans in Massachusetts, to the realization of a natural place in Central Park." (