While Michael Pollan and others have popularized ideas about how growing one’s own food can help lead to environmental sustainability, environmental justice activists have pushed for more access to gardens and fresh food in impoverished communities. Now, Robert S. Emmett argues that mid-twentieth-century American garden writing included many ideas that became formative for these contemporary environmental writers and activists.
Drawing on ecocriticism, environmental history, landscape architecture, and recent work in environmental justice and food studies, Emmett explores how the language of environmental justice emerged in descriptions of gardening across a variety of literary forms. He reveals early egalitarian associations found in garden writing, despite a popular focus on elite sites such as suburban lawns and formal southern gardens. Cultivating Environmental Justice emphasizes the intergenerational work of gardeners and garden writers who, from the 1930s on, asserted increasingly radical socioeconomic and ecological claims to justice. Emmett considers a wide range of texts by authors including Bernard M’Mahon, Scott and Helen Nearing, Katharine S. White, Elizabeth Lawrence, Alice Walker, and Novella Carpenter.