Our project has, after a bumpy start, finally come to fruition: The Pythagorean Orchard is now planted on a raised bit of ground between the Bus Loop and the Library. You can see it from the walkway that runs above the campus Starbucks towards Convocation Mall if you look down to the north side.
We used the Embark grant to purchase ten fruit trees: one plum tree, and nine apple trees, of different varieties. These trees were planted in a lovely Pythagorean triangle on a raised strip of land just north of the walkway between West Mall and Convocation Mall, between the bus loop and the Library. We chose ten because the Pythagoreans, a highly influential group thinkers in ancient Athens that predated Plato and Socrates, thought that this way of stacking circles in tens was particularly stable. We made the openings circular because the shape represented unity and identity, since each point on the circumference is equally distant from the centre.
The Philosophical Fruit thinktank in the Philosophy Department will be responsible for maintaining the orchard. A long-term goal is to use this orchard as an example and testing ground to develop guidelines for stewardship teams on academic campuses, to make it easier for other groups to implement similar projects on other campuses. We will also develop Principles of Just Distribution as a philosophical project. This means taking basic principles of fairness in distributing resources and benefits in general in ways that preserve justice, and apply these specifically to fruit grown in public places.
This thinktank, run by Associate Professor Holly Andersen, looks at issues at the intersection of civic engagement, social structures through time, including the institution of the university through time since the late middle ages, the goal of education with a special focus on philosophy as developing the rational citizen required for democratic governance, and the way in which environmental issues, including physical built space in which we spend our time, shape these discussions. The Orchard has had a great team of people involved, all from Philosophy: two faculty members, Holly Andersen and Nic Fillion, and MA students Matthew Maxwell, Navid Targhati, Gabriel Lariviere, and Brittany French.
Edible landscaping is a trend where features of campuses and other public spaces that ordinarily are planted with greenery that looks nice but can’t be eaten is instead planted with greenery that can in some way or another produces food. Changing regular bushes out and planting rosemary instead, for instance, is a edible landscaping feature. This orchard is a test or pilot project to see if this can be done in a new way on the SFU campus. It can serve as a model for other campuses in sustainable landscape architecture that contributes to the social community of a campus.
Since we are a team of philosophers, we have a historical fondness for doing our work in discussions in lovely places such as olive groves. Philosophy originated as a way to educate citizens of Athens to participate in democracy as rational thriving persons, in discussions about what one ought to do with oneself, how one ought to live, and towards what one should strive to live a flourishing and ethical life. We are excited that, even though it is apples rather than olives, there will be a philosophical grove of trees in which to continue these discussions.