Gardening With Soul

Gardening With Soul is an award-winning New Zealand documentary from filmmaker Jess Feast, and it has just opened nationally in New Zealand and selected cinemas across Australia. I can’t wait to check it out, it looks like a beautiful story, made even more incredible for capturing the magical day it snowed in Wellington.

Gardening with Soul premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival in July 2013, 

Sister Loyola is one of the liveliest nonagenarians you could ever meet.

As the main gardener at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington, her daily tasks include heavy lifting alongside vigorous spade and wheelbarrow work, which she sometimes performs on crutches. Loyola and the other Sisters of Compassion follow the vision of Mother Aubert to ‘meet the needs of the oppressed and powerless in their communities’. 

The lively, beautifully shot documentary (edited by Annie Collins. written & directed by Jess Feast) is filmed almost entirely in this small community on the southern coast of Wellington. With music by local musician David Long, and full of the sea- and garden-scapes that have informed Loyola’s life, Gardening with Soul uncovers a local legend and her community for the wider world. It is a conceptual triumph for Feast. Any belief we might harbour that becoming a nun is avoiding the real world is turned firmly on its head as we witness this extraordinary soul steer a sharp course through all weathers, trying to shine love on everything she sees. 

-Jo Randerson, International Film Festival

If you like to read up before seeing a film, I’d recommend this insightful Interview with filmmaker Jess Feast, otherwise find your local screening and get there!

Can’t wait to check it out, also if this gets you all tingly, you can download Freerange Vol.2: Gardening & Violence, which suddently feels a bit scandalous against this beautiful story.

Thanks to Gina for passing this on!



The Leasons

Written by Ruth Hill with photographs by Dion Howard, this article originally appeared in Freerange Volume 2: Gardening & Violence in 2009, edited by Barnaby Bennett and Gina Moss.


A small organic holding in sunny Otaki, New Zealand, sprouting kids and pigs and walnut trees, seems a world away from the devastation of war-torn Iraq. But for Adrian and Shelley Leason, the two are intimately connected.

A hail of arrows, knives and tomahawks fly through the air as Adrian Leason strolls through the paddock pushing a wheelbarrow full of small children.

“Gardens are violent places,” he muses.

“Full of creatures eating other creatures, plants struggling for primacy, strangling other plants….”

He pauses by a small bonfire.

“I’m not happy about that fire, boys,” he remonstrates gently with his older sons, who are practising their marksmanship on distant targets with a variety of weapons.

“Piss on it, please.”

This peaceful rural idyll is home to Adrian and Shelley and their semi-feral tribe of beautiful children – Jack (13), Finn (11), Che (9), Mana (6), Ari (4), Samuel (2) and Davy (born in April). The Leasons have rejected many of trappings of modern life, including television, but the couple have ensured their family is attuned to world events in a way many of us manage to comfortably avoid. Continue reading “The Leasons”

Half Caste Broadcast

Combining tricksterism with earnestness is a tough tough ask, and I’d like to take my hat off to Toi Iti and Maori TV for achieving a rare feat of historically accurate emotionally moving political satire.

Half Caste Broadcast.

Are bad jobs at bad wages better than no jobs at all?

In the spirit of provocation I am referencing an article here by American uber economist Paul Kruger where he makes an argument in Praise of Cheap Labour.  The entire article can be read here. I have pasted a sizable excerpt below.  To me the crux of the provocation comes not from different priorities about human needs, but from a different view on reality.  Many people that might be called anti-globalization folk share a idealist view of the world, seeing through a prism of how things should be and how people should be treated.   I don’t mean this as a veiled criticism, its an invaluable position.  But it is one that contrasts strongly with the utilitarianism of many economists (I’m excluding the obviously corrupt ne0-liberal groups here that just spout their own terrible idealism) who have a deep understanding of the present vast inequalities and are able to argue that what might look like terrible-ness to our eyes is infact improvement for people.  I can’t bring myself to entirely support the position that cheap labour is necessarily a good thing, but I do entirely encourage reading articles as this as they do fundamentally challenge what are often the safe but naive intellectual positions of the left.

Global poverty is not something recently invented for the benefit of multinational corporations. Let’s turn the clock back to the Third World as it was only two decades ago (and still is, in many countries). In those days, although the rapid economic growth of a handful of small Asian nations had started to attract attention, developing countries like Indonesia or Bangladesh were still mainly what they had always been: exporters of raw materials, importers of manufactures. Inefficient manufacturing sectors served their domestic markets, sheltered behind import quotas, but generated few jobs. Meanwhile, population pressure pushed desperate peasants into cultivating ever more marginal land or seeking a livelihood in any way possible–such as homesteading on a mountain of garbage.

Given this lack of other opportunities, you could hire workers in Jakarta or Manila for a pittance. But in the mid-’70s, cheap labor was not enough to allow a developing country to compete in world markets for manufactured goods. The entrenched advantages of advanced nations–their infrastructure and technical know-how, the vastly larger size of their markets and their proximity to suppliers of key components, their political stability and the subtle-but-crucial social adaptations that are necessary to operate an efficient economy–seemed to outweigh even a tenfold or twentyfold disparity in wage rates.

And then something changed. Some combination of factors that we still don’t fully understand–lower tariff barriers, improved telecommunications, cheaper air transport–reduced the disadvantages of producing in developing countries. (Other things being the same, it is still better to produce in the First World–stories of companies that moved production to Mexico or East Asia, then moved back after experiencing the disadvantages of the Third World environment, are common.) In a substantial number of industries, low wages allowed developing countries to break into world markets. And so countries that had previously made a living selling jute or coffee started producing shirts and sneakers instead.

Workers in those shirt and sneaker factories are, inevitably, paid very little and expected to endure terrible working conditions. I say “inevitably” because their employers are not in business for their (or their workers’) health; they pay as little as possible, and that minimum is determined by the other opportunities available to workers. And these are still extremely poor countries, where living on a garbage heap is attractive compared with the alternatives.

And yet, wherever the new export industries have grown, there has been measurable improvement in the lives of ordinary people. Partly this is because a growing industry must offer a somewhat higher wage than workers could get elsewhere in order to get them to move. More importantly, however, the growth of manufacturing–and of the penumbra of other jobs that the new export sector creates–has a ripple effect throughout the economy. The pressure on the land becomes less intense, so rural wages rise; the pool of unemployed urban dwellers always anxious for work shrinks, so factories start to compete with each other for workers, and urban wages also begin to rise. Where the process has gone on long enough–say, in South Korea or Taiwan–average wages start to approach what an American teen-ager can earn at McDonald’s. And eventually people are no longer eager to live on garbage dumps. (Smokey Mountain persisted because the Philippines, until recently, did not share in the export-led growth of its neighbors. Jobs that pay better than scavenging are still few and far between.)”


A freerange Associate Nathaniel Corum who works at Architecture For Humanity has been involved with the design of the Plastiki boat seen in the diagram below.    This is a remarkable project with a boat that is almost entirely designed from recycled plastics.  The project aims to educate the world about various environmental issues including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is the horrifying floating rubbish island twice the size of texas floating in the pacific, and other environmental causes and recycling opportunities.   Its also a pretty remarkable example of how resource scarcity can inspire the best of human creativity.

They have set sail on a 17 thousand k journey from San Fran to Sydney, currently 69 days through and well into the Polynesian Islands.  Go Well.

Check it out. Care of the NY Times.  Check the main Plastiki website here.

The rise of Urban Farms

An urban Farmer called Will Allen in Milwaukee has just been named on Time magazines list of 100 most influential people. Times are surely a-changing when a proposal for multi-story urban farms is getting such international attention. Allen received a $US500,000 Genius grant from the Catherine T. McArthur Foundation, he is now trying to raise 7 to 10 million dollars to make  a 5-story 2000 square metre prototype.

It’s time to stop dreaming and start building, Allen said.

Allen, 61, for years has been calling attention to the widespread existence of “food deserts” in cities across America, where whole communities lack access to fresh, nutritious, affordable food, and underserved populations have high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.Full Article here.

I reckon this is awesome and if anyone has a spare 7 million lying around this seems like a good cause.  Freerange 2 touched on a lot of issues relating to this with its theme of Gardening and Violence. Have a look.