BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 15 November '15

‘We can’t simply ask the government to fix the global environment, they couldn’t do it’

A leading scientist has argued that government action alone can’t secure a sustainable future for plants and the planet.

Professor Stephen Blackmore, who holds the title of The Queen’s Botanist in Scotland and was formally the Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, made his comments when he delivered the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) John MacLeod Annual Lecture.

Waiting for action

Professor Blackmore stated that individuals cannot afford to be passive and defer responsibility to governments, and that we can’t wait for others to take action to protect the planet.

He added that individual gardeners, gardening charities and the international network of botanic gardens are better suited to protecting the world’s flora.

‘It’s often said that Nature can take care of itself, but that’s no longer true if we want to live in a world that can support us.

‘We can’t simply ask the government to fix the global environment, they couldn’t do it. The planet can be safeguarded only by each of us changing our behaviour in positive ways that will make a difference to the quality of life in the future.’

Professor Stepehen Blackmore

‘A global garden’

During the lecture he argued that the impact of humanity on Nature’s life-support systems is so extensive that there is now no part of the planet beyond our influence.

Professor Blackmore believes that the scale of the negative influence humans have had on Nature is so great that it is now valid to think about the planet as a global garden, meaning it will be our individual and collective actions that will determine how well Nature can meet our needs for future.

‘The more you can grow in your individual patch, garden or windowbox, the more you can help planet Earth. For me the key insight is that it was the cumulative actions of 7 billion people that created the environmental challenges we face today, and it will be the individual actions of those same people that will get us out of the position we’re currently in.’

Professor Stepehen Blackmore

How to make an impact

The changes Professor Blackmore is proposing are just as applicable to large gardens as to urban windowboxes, as they involve gardeners seeing themselves as part of a bigger picture in which the choice of plants they grow has an effect multiplied millions of times across the world.

In practical terms, gardeners need to:

  • Actively choose plants that will support the widest diversity of other species, including pollinators and other garden wildlife
  • Make urban landscapes much greener by planting garden and street trees to absorb pollutants, reduce excess temperatures and improve the quality of the built environment
  • Not pave over front gardens, instead ensuring that there is an area of green as well as a parking space
  • Gain health benefits for themselves and their families through gardening
  • Join forces with and support their local parks, gardens and gardening societies, if they don’t have a garden of their own

Click here for the Royal Horticultural Society’s advice on plants and gardening.