Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Native Plant Gardens -- Why Are They Sometimes Hard to Embrace?

A native plant landscape is not an attempt to "return to some past, pure nature." That's impossible, especially with climate change (and philosophically it's wrought with ideological problems -- this environmental lit PhD knows). But the wildlife that need native plants and their ecological communities have not gone away -- they certainly can't evolve within decades or even a century to our imported plant gardens. We're doing our best to make the wildlife go away through unprecedented mass extinction, though, and yes primarily in ways beyond our gardens; but our gardens are entry points into those larger ways / landscapes.

I can point to research that shows we'll lose 30% of global plant species in coming decades, that the U.S. has unprecedented losses of songbirds, that kids growing up today will see 35% fewer butterflies and moths than their parents did 40 years ago, that specific native bee species need specific native plant species to complete their reproduction cycle, that one of the most endangered global ecosystems is prairie and that prairie is great at sequestering carbon and creating darn rich soil, yet it doesn't seem to hold sway.

Are we too entrenched in what we believe, or where we're from or how we were raised and the inherent values of those circumstances? Are we too far removed from a relationship with nature that doesn't need our hand in it, and thus would redefine our interactions with it? Are we selfish? Are we unwilling or afraid to confront the repercussions of our actions, especially when it comes to private landscapes? In America, are we uncomfortable with gardens having meaning beyond aesthetics or for personal use? How much of our sense of Western entitlement and freedom is at play?

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