Critical Reflections on Human Rights and the Environment series
Chapter 3: Property, intimacy and privacy: gardening as ownership in action
In his book Thoughtful Gardening Robin Lane Fox remarks that most people begin their serious gardening in middle age, when that other preoccupation and object of love, their children, have become less demanding of attention. This was not true of him: he fell in love with alpine plants when he was still at school, and he spent a gap year between school and university working in the Black Forest, apprenticed to an alpine expert. In consequence he is now not only a highly distinguished Greek historian, but the most enlightening and sympathetic, and certainly the most thoughtful, writer on gardening, who has responsibility not only for his own garden but for that of New College, Oxford, of which he is a Fellow. His suggestion that a preoccupation with gardening is in some way akin to, or a replacement for, a preoccupation with children would not seem in the least inapt to Hume. Both are matters of pride and shame, of often unrealistic hopes and plans, and therefore often consequent disappointment. But with one’s children, uniquely, the relationship changes; they may still be a source of pride or shame, but they become one’s equals as they grow up and detach themselves from one’s plans and responsibilities (unless of course they are sadly unable to achieve such independence). This is why, though ours, they are not counted at any time among our possessions.
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