Exploring the earth(y) ethics of residents cultivating native verge gardens in suburban Perth, Australia

Authors: Clare Mouat*, Department of Geography and Planning, The University of Western Australia, Natasha Pauli, UWA School of Agriculture and Environment & Department of Geography and Planning, The University of Western Australia, Emma Ligtermoet, UWA School of Agriculture and Environment & Department of Geography and Planning, The University of Western Australia, Cecily J Maller, School of Global Urban & Social Studies/Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University
Topics: Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: Native Verge Gardens, Nature Strips, Community, Ethical subjects, Sense of place, More-than-human, Wellbeing
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 43
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The management of nature strips is a rapidly evolving area of policy change and community interest globally. Our research in Perth, Australia studied whether transforming nature strips from purely utilitarian spaces into tended gardens can provide a space to ‘grow community’ in a more-than-human sense.

We conducted semi-structured interviews and participatory verge garden mapping with more than 20 householders, ranging from novice to experienced gardeners, who had converted their nature strips into native verge gardens over the last ten years. We recorded residents’ views on gardening, nature, community, interactions, and sense of belonging. Foucault’s ethical foundations (around the ethical site; moral impulse; ethical practices; and ethical ends) were adapted to explore the variant emotional and socio-ecological geographies of pre-figurative politics (of co-becoming and ethical mindfulness) and the landscapes and orientations that emerge in the process of nature strip transformation.

We find emerging modes of (in)formal (inter)subjectivities relating to nature, neighbours, and tensions between public and private stewardship over this fragmented but significant form of urban commons. Ethical capacities operate at the ‘grass roots’, from the nature strip upwards, and intersect with wider municipal agendas for land-use, urban greening, and social cohesion, as well as with broader earth stewardship ethics around climate change and more-than-human responsibilities. We conclude that nature strip gardening cultivates tangible means of (re)connecting urban nature and people through individual and collective ethical engagement, as well as encouraging a recalibration of suburban norms and policy conditions to reshape local verge spaces in support of a flourishing urban sustainability.

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