The speech that the wonderful Pam Warhurst recently gave in my community stated her belief in the power of small actions to change the world:
“Through an organic process, through an increasing recognition of the power of small actions, we are starting, at last, to believe in ourselves again, and to believe in our capacity, each and every one of us, to build a different and a kinder future.”
Pam Warhurst is co-founder of Incredible Edible Todmorden, a local food partnership project that started in West Yorkshire, England. It encourages community engagement through urban gardening. Local people come together, volunteering their time to transform waste ground and disused public land into community gardens. Food is grown to share. The project is helping to change people’s attitudes and behaviour towards the environment – and more than this, it is also building a kinder, more sociable and more resilient community – and world.
Incredible Edible started off in a very small way, just by planting some modest herb gardens in Todmorden. But today, cemeteries, police station yards and strips of wasteland all over the town are blooming. Beyond Todmorden, across the country and across the world, over twenty other ‘Incredible Edible’ towns exist. Its influence has reached the U.S. and Japan, too – inspiring community gardening there. There have been other spin-offs: another project, Every Egg Matters, teaches people about keeping chickens and selling eggs to their neighbours.
The most impressive thing about this project is that a seemingly innocuous thing like planting food in public spaces has been the catalyst for transforming a whole town. Not only one town, either! These actions have led to a worldwide movement – with this phenomenon being replicated globally.
Pam’s talk in my own community has already catalysed a whole sequence of actions – just days after it took place. There is something about food that makes it easy for people to take action. Everyone has a stake in what they eat and everyone is capable of planting and growing something. That makes it so easy for people to take a first step.
Pam’s speech was the 32nd talk held in our community, organised by The Dandelion Project. These talks, together with the hundreds of coffees that have accompanied them, are planting seeds of change. Every week, we hear that more and more of those seeds are germinating. We receive news that projects are starting – or are progressing. And they are all developed from local people’s passionate belief in making our community a better place. Small, medium and large actions are helping us to transform where we live, bit by bit.
The thrilling thing is that ordinary people are taking control of their communities themselves and making things happen.
You see, in March last year, when we launched our mission to create the best place to live on earth by 2020, most people though we were crazy. But some people just started taking action – and those actions are starting to take hold, to encourage others, and to grow.
The world cannot be changed by a top-down approach. Issues cannot be resolved through the actions of government. Transformation has to come from a shift in culture at the grassroots level.
Just over a year since we launched the project, it feels ever more likely that it will succeed. What The Dandelion Project and Incredible Edible share in common is an unwavering belief that the overwhelming power of small actions can cause a tide of change that creates a whole new world.
To small actions.