we need more and bigger gardens
On the other side of the street lived an old couple. They weren’t old when we first moved in 32 years ago. Their boys had grown up and left home. Mario had retired and spent much of his time at his club and in his beloved garden. In the back garden he grew fruit trees and vegetables just as he had in his native Italy. The front garden was for show, a centrepiece of neat grass surrounded by shrubs.
Then Mario died. The garden started to deteriorate because his widow did not have the same strength and energy. Her health deteriorated as she aged. She moved into a nursing home. Then, two months ago the house and land was sold.
The unimposing house and spacious garden have gone. They are to be replaced with two large houses and no garden. The land was expensive and the new owner will recoup the money by living in one house and renting the other.
In the current status stakes a large garden is not valued. What impresses is the size of the dwelling and the expensive materials it contains, such as marble or granite benches in the kitchen. So the houses across the road will be large and grand, with fashionably extravagant finishes throughout. Every bedroom with have its own ensuite. There will be a second storey and there will be air conditioning.
This issue has been raised in a recent article by Michael Day, editor of Sanctuary Magazine, published by the Alternative Technology Association. We Need More, and Bigger, Gardens, Not Mcmansions presents the case well. He calls the shrinking of gardens and the corresponding bloating of houses an Australian housing obesity epidemic.
In the last 30 years subdivisions of land have shrunk by up to 50 percent yet the average new house has grown larger by 50 square metres. Despite this occupant numbers have decreased from an average of 3 people per house to 2 and a half. Day places responsibility for this situation onto developers who build large houses because they see it as a good investment.
We need to make people realize that gardens are worth more than larger and larger houses. And we need to pressure governments to protect the environment instead of developers.