Wednesday, January 25, 2012

NWF in Garden Bed with Scotts

I'm sure most of you have heard that the National Wildlife Federation, promoters of the backyard habitat certification program, have partnered with Scotts of Miracle Gro and fertilizer and insecticide fame. Two programs are key: increasing wild songbirds (by buying Scotts birdseed) and getting kids back out into nature (where they can absorb all kinds of Scotts products). I apologize for my snark. Go read Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home, and Louv's Last Child in the Woods. That's all you need to light a fire under you.

The president of the NWF proclaims lawns as carbon sinks, useful places to help curb global warming. This is a joke. Please, do not dump chemical fertilizer produced with oil from Iran (hyperbole, maybe) on your lawn four times a year, most of which kills good soil bacteria and other life, then runs into our streams and lakes killing aquatic life. Instead, top dress with free compost from your local city. But, that wouldn't make any money for Scotts.



Lawns are antiquated dreams of a 19th century American middle class wanting to have small, private Versailles. And the democratic idea of Olmsted, where lawns create a large park bringing us together, is ludicrous--we have fences, I don't know my neighbors, et cetera. Kids may play in lawns, but they learn nothing about themselves or the natural world, its processes, its lessons. That happens among the brush. It cures ADHD. It speeds a patient's recovery from surgery. We don't need more lawns, we need more habitat, shrubs and trees with berries, flowers with insects--insects that are key protein sources for songbird chicks. In Nebraska, we need prairie like we need love and forgiveness and oxygen. Prairies are carbon sinks.

The best article so far, summing up the outrage, the backlash, and the corporate brush off, is right here. (This post also has links to NWF's Facebook and Twitter feeds if you're so inclined to say something to them.)

Feel free to check out this link about Scotts new GMO lawn seeds that resist Roundup, so anyone can spray willy nilly, and in the process create super weeds. 

Also, Scotts trying to overturn bans on nitrogen lawn fertilizer in Florida during rainy summer months.

Obviously, I don't agree with NWF--who claim not to support all of the Scotts products, and see this as a way to work from the inside out in a company that wants to change (so why don't they?). The chemicals we spew on this planet are immense--we really have no idea. From lawns to gardens to big crops, to the feed in cattle and chicken and hogs, to what we put into ourselves and release into the sewers to be "treated" but is never really gone--Tylenol, antidepressants, estrogen, the gmo food we eat.  When you refinish a bookcase. When you paint your house. Most anything you toss in the trash.

Now the NWF appears to be supporting (and is financially supported by) a company whose basic raison d'etre is "Buy chemicals. They will save you. Have a spider? Spray it. A brown patch of lawn? Treat it." We spray before we think, and NWF tripped up. My garden and lawn pests are treated, often within days, by natural predators, all because I invite in those predators with non-lawn habitat.

I have little to no faith in our government. If we want things to change for the better, whether they be environmental or social or economical, the private sector must do it, must turn the tide and create such an uproar the government may finally act. Unfortunately, I don't have enough money to buy politicians and get stuff done sooner. All I have is this blog. This post. Some anger, confusion, and sadness. Sometimes it gets me hoping through writing, but not today. I am so disheartened. As I will be again, I'm sure. I'm going to go start some liatris seeds.

18 comments:

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

I have had a headache all day and a restless night because I am so angry...that anger will fade to being disheartened if I don't choose to leave the losers at Scotts and NWF behind and move on. Mailing back my signs and joining in with other groups. These are the groups I will support. Not sure I will ever go back to NWF. Just can't trust them. Thank you for keeping the dialogue going and have fun with your seeds. Mine will be started soon as well.

Debbie / GardenofPossibilities said...

Well said, bravo!

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

My lowly street is too low-rent to warrant Scotts Lawn Care trying to drum up business here, but they came to a friend of mine's house and she chased them off her porch. She regrets not having had a broom at hand, lol. Seriously, my lawn is weeds--I've never fertilized, pesticided, or heck even watered it (no lie!). And Doug Tallamy is a personal hero.

mr_subjunctive said...

chemical fertilizer produced with oil from Iran

I was unable to confirm this with Google. Where are you getting this from?

Benjamin Vogt said...

Fine Mr. S., it's hyperbole. The point is we import oil from nations that despise, and we use that oil to do physical harm to our landscapes. Sorry (or are you being jokey with me?).

Annie Haven | Authentic Haven Brand said...

Wonderful Post and yes, it Stinks! It's Big Ag marketing tactics and I don't like it. I have read all there is to read and I watched and listened to the NWF CEO spill his ideals and it still Stinks!

Scotts controls the majority of the "shelf space" in most all Big Box store market lawn and garden sections. Back in the day a company such as mine could go to a large local retailer and get shelf space and if the product did well could get picked up by them and placed in other locations. Now it seems they have to get approval from Scotts! If Scotts doesn't want a product in they buy the shelf space...

Scotts owns many of the products on the shelf, however they do not have their brand on them. They package the products under the name of the dirt companies (that's how Scotts referrers to them) they have bought. This is again Big Ag marketing and most consumers are unaware of it!

What Scotts can't control is great products (shameless plug here) like Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew that are available to gardeners online! So I hope that all of you that are as outraged over this "marriage of greenwashing" as I am will shop for your lawn and garden products from companies like mine. The best way to show our power is to use it by not supporting Scotts and their affiliate companies!

I see no going back NWE will no longer have support from myself or my company my focus will be on those Wild Life organizations that truly care! Thank you Annie Haven

Chiot's Run said...

This news angers me. I'm so sick of the corporate climate of greenwashing and doing anything to make a buck.

This nausea that I feel when I hear news like this, or any news really - is what drives me out into the garden. I honestly believe that only when people get back out into the garden, start growing some of their food, noticing the beauty of nature will society as a whole get better. Hopefully I'm doing my part encouraging others to turn off their TV's, eat REAL food, and get outside into the garden

mr_subjunctive said...

Wasn't joking. It seemed plausible, I hadn't heard anything about it before, it wasn't obviously marked as fiction, I tried to confirm it, I couldn't. So I asked.

garden girl said...

I sure do understand how you feel Benjamin, and agree completely that change will come from the people, not government.

More voices are rising, and more action is taking place at the grass-roots level now than at any other time I can remember since, well . . . since I won't tell you when, because it's not possible I'm that old.

I think we're already beginning to see small ripples of real change. Not enough, and not quick enough, but hang in there, because I think we're in for a long haul that will ultimately be fruitful if we don't give up. Maybe NWF has lost their way, but there are still a lot of principled groups and individuals doing great work.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Donna--don't give yourself a headache! I know I need to pull back and get back to my life.
Debbie--Much thanks!
Monica--Oh I just stew when I the chemlawn trucks. And no one is ever in their yard anyway in my nieghborhood--they are in the streets though, not on the sidewalks.
Annie--I guess I should've assumed all that, but didn't. Which surprises me. I want a big company that can dictate terms.
CR--Here here! The garden is a dumping ground for my emotions, which can lead to a re-centering. Marveling at a new insect for an hour cures most ills!
Linda--I'm an impatient guy, and my elder say nothing changes decade to decade. So let's stir the pot. I just wonder what I can do, what bigger thing. Wheels turning slowly (rusty).

Mary Hysong said...

Of course part of the problem is supply and demand. So many people today want an easy fix, the quick solution so they go to the big box store, describe what they have to clerk and the clerk points out the chemical aisle.... nobody tells them that the chemicals are going to make them sick, give them cancer, give their kids learning disabilities, etc. they buy it they go home, if we are lucky they might read the whole label, but most people won't read past the how to instructions.

All we can do is boycott the companies and groups like NWF and do our best to educate others as much as we can....

Benjamin Vogt said...

Mary--You want easy? Have you seen my garden? I could, seriously, spend on mad full day in it each year only--the March cut down. That's it. Nothing to do but watch the world come in like a tide. I'm not lying either. No one believes me. Messing with chemicals is hard, nasty business--and costs money. Plants suited for their soil and climate = simplicity squared.

Ferry Tales said...

It will be interesting to see if NWF backs down or plows ahead. It's a terrible conundrum-- on the one hand you don't want to alienate your membership base, or, more importantly, let a company purchase your principles, but at the same time there is the attractive chance, however slight, of a big payoff. Not in terms of dollars to the organization, but in terms of changing the way a big bad company does business. And if you can land the big ones like Scott or McDonald's and convince them to change, then I think there is real value in that. It may be naive to think that, but people who work in the environmental field are idealists by nature.

Benjamin Vogt said...

FT--Yeah, that's the problem, we are idealists. But I'm also a misanthrope and don't trust people, too, esp when this stuff happens. Sure I hope something good happens, but all I see if the NWF encouraging kids to interact with nature, and Scotts whispering in parents ears as they watch their kids play "Green up that grass for your special treasures. Keep away wasps and ticks and spiders and spray your landscape. Watch out. The big mean planet Earth is out to get you."

Mary Gray said...

Hey Benjamin,
I am standing up and clapping my hands over here in Burke, VA. Fantastic post!

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