Clement Kent - Caring For Our Planet


Meetings are held at the Bonar-Parkdale Presbyterian Church, 250 Dunn Avenue, just south of Queen Street West. Doors open at 6:30pm. Meetings start informally around 7:00pm and the meeting starts at 7:30pm. Arrive after 6:30pm and enjoy coffee and cookies while you check out the Hort library, chat, and ask questions!

After 20 years, Clement will revisit ecological gardening from a spiritual and ethical perspective. He’ll ask how gardeners and horticultural societies can contribute to the development of what Aldo Leopold called The Land Ethic (1949), what Arne Naess called Deep Ecology (1973), and what Pope Francis calls Integral Ecology. These thinkers emphasize the need to expand our ethics and spiritual beliefs to include a deep concern for the state of the whole natural world. Clement will address gardening for the human spirit, for nature, and how we can spread integral ecology through our own gardens and through our society’s projects.


One of the interesting things about this job of bio writer is that, when we have repeat speakers, I already have a lot of material to work from. As some of you may guess, all of our speakers have bios on their web pages or have canned bios they provide to organizations they’re going to speak at, etc. So why do I put Barbara Japp through the ringer every month with my usually late submissions of bios that I insist on writing after doing a phone interview, instead of just cobbling together various bits from my archives and from the internet? Well, the response I’ve received from many of you over the years seems to indicate that whatever the reason, it results in something you enjoy reading.

So, back to the return speakers—the first thing I do is re-read what I’ve written in past years (I’m a digital as well as a physical pack-rat). I wouldn’t want to ask the same questions or repeat the same details; in fact, it challenges me to build on previous bios. In the case of Clement Kent, well, the fact that he’s ‘one of our own’ as well as one of our founding fathers, a past President a few times over, and that many of you might know even more about him than I could ever get into 300 words, means that I have to reach far and deep into the question of who Clement Kent really is. So this month, given he’s written a very nice description of his presentation himself, I’ll make this slightly different.

Clement and I met some thirty years ago when we both worked for a leading edge software company, I.P. Sharp Associates. We crossed paths again here at the Hort when I joined around 1996. I was surprised, though later I realized I shouldn’t have been, that a computer nerd also liked gardening. Now that I’ve been studying at York University, that makes three different points of intersection in our lives and, if he wasn’t married to the lovely Lena, I’d probably be checking with a psychic reader to find out if we weren’t meant to be together or some such! I should be so lucky!

Yet, the various intersections of our lives still leave much ground to be covered (in mulch, of course), many species to be discovered, catalogued, cultivated, perhaps, or at least, observed and experimented with. Such, in a way, is Clement’s trajectory through computing, horticulture, and genetics and entomology. Wherever he turns his attention, Clement starts digging about, gathering experience and knowledge, and finally, trying to make some sense of how to turn those into something useful, beautiful, and good for us and the planet. Computing? Well, of course, it’s all about the elegance of efficiency in patterns and numbers for solving problems. Gardening? It’s all about observation and experimenting and we know from past years’ presentations that Clement is brilliant at discovering new plants, finding out new things about old favourites, and has a wealth of knowledge where gardening is concerned—both in the ‘how to’ and in the ‘why’ of all things plant-related.

His most recent venture, in academia, beginning with his doctoral research on fruit flies and now, his attention to honey bees is yet one more area where he has, in the most holistic way, applied his work and interests in an effort to improve our world. As he wrote to me, it is a “four year project to give beekeepers tools to breed honeybees that resist disease and adverse weather better, and that produce more honey”. A sweet, well-rounded goal that impacts human survival through our relationship with the natural world and a most noble goal that any of us gardeners would be proud to be part of, I’m sure.

One of my anthropology profs once answered my question about specializing versus dealing with the big picture (I was in first year and very prematurely grappling with this conundrum!), he told me you start with the particular all the way through graduate degrees, and that somehow you come back to the big picture. Clement has most certainly dealt with the particular, and not in just one discipline; but he seems now, more than anything, to be focused on the big picture.

That doesn’t mean the fine details are no longer important. He wrote the words above to me from Nice where he is at the moment “doing research on an interesting Italian aceto di miele (honey vinegar) and (bien sur!) French wines”. But he’ll be back in time to share photos of this trip most assuredly, as he engages us in his work—a decidedly big-picture, participatory venture. What follows is his own invitation to his upcoming talk.

Maria Nunes

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