Tuesday, October 23, 2007

About This Environmental Thing . . .

I'm just a little more aware of environmental issues as I am political ones. Sometimes the two converge. But my level of commitment fluctuates, so when bloggers recently posted their thoughts on the environment on Blog Action Day (October 15th), I didn't post. But I did read. And it got me thinking, which was one of the purposes of Blog Action Day in the first place.

It's not that I'm opposed to green efforts or anything, it's just that I've never been one to champion any cause very forcefully. As opinionated and outspoken as I can be, this probably comes as a surprise to those who know me, but maybe it has to do with my lack of knowledge and understanding about "issues" and that my procrastination habit keeps me from reading and researching them.

In the last two-plus years, however, I've learned a lot about my outdoors environment as a result of my taking up gardening pretty much full-time. I've discovered much of it intimately and in a hands-on kind of way. Immersion, I think they call it. And while I'm still not totally organic, nor may I ever be, I'm certainly much more aware of the impact my actions have on the world around me.

Last Tuesday, my 92-year-old grandmother and I had a nice chat about some things along those lines. This proved to be interesting for many reasons. She and my grandpa made their living by farming and Grandma was a gardener of not only flowers, but vegetables and fruits that she preserved for her family. She has seen changes in farming over the years and they aren't all good, where the environment is concerned.

I don't remember how we started talking about environmental issues, but it may have been the Monarchs that led us to it. I told her about the one that was born in our house, then explained to her about the dwindling milkweed supply and how this is affecting the Monarch population.

Is it important that there are fewer Monarchs? Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly other species have become extinct over the years and we and the rest of the world have gotten along just fine without them, right? I'm sure the earth won't stop turning without Monarch butterflies. But that's not the point, is it?

Here's what it is for me: In all the time of existence of earth and everything on or in it, things have been in a state of change. Nothing stays the same. Some changes take place quickly, some take eras. Man had nothing to do with the changes that occurred thousands of years ago, for example, glaciers used to move over the very land where Our Little Acre now sits.

But now we're told that we're destroying the protective ozone layer that blankets the earth and if we don't change our ways, we're going to really mess up the equilibrium that exists in the environment. I've seen An Inconvenient Truth, and I'm not going to say that we aren't doing some very detrimental things nor that we shouldn't modify the way we do things. But I don't believe that what we're doing is going to have the monumental effect that the
ΓΌber-environmentalists would have us think.

What I do believe is that the present use of chemicals by the agricultural community, which includes gardeners like me, is causing diseases like cancer. (Grandma agrees.) I believe the world would be a better and healthier place to live if we did more recycling and used less non-biodegradable disposable materials. I believe if people lived with the rest of the world in mind rather than a "me first" mentality, huge strides would be made in making the world a cleaner place - cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner land. I believe if more people had greater respect for all living things, it would affect life for all of us in a positive way.

So what am I doing now that I didn't do before? I've got a compost pile. I collect rainwater in a barrel for watering plants. As a geocacher, I practice CITO (Cache In, Trash Out). We continue to recycle aluminum, plastic, glass, and newspapers.

Being a Certified Monarch Waystation, we purposely grow Asclepias species for the Monarchs, that being the sole food source for the caterpillars. And because of all the butterflies and beneficial insects that live in our gardens, we don't use pesticides, other than Safer® Insect Killing Soap or Neem Oil, and then only when absolutely necessary. As a result, sometimes the foliage or petals on blooms don't look perfect, but that's okay. Our kitties appreciate our efforts, too.

So while there's more that I could do that would benefit the environment, I feel pretty good about what I do do, and I don't hesitate to advocate organic practices when the opportunity presents itself. At the same time, you won't see me look down my nose at anyone who doesn't consciously practice good green basics, because that once was me. And thank goodness living things have an incredible ability to adapt.

Don't look at the environmental issues as something so overwhelming that you don't think anything you do will make a difference. Every little bit helps. Just do something.

Once a man was walking along a beach. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a person going back and forth between the surf's edge and the beach. As the man approached he could see that there were hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand as the result of the natural action of the tide.

The man was struck by the apparent futility of the task. There were far too many starfish. Many of them were sure to perish. As he approached, the person continued the task of picking up starfish one by one and throwing them into the surf.

As he came up to the person he said, "You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can't possibly make a difference." The person looked at the man. He then stooped down and pick up one more starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He turned back to the man and said, "It made a difference to that one."


Greg W said...

Very well said. I just recently began perennial gardening but have grown vegetables off and on for years. I never was much for using chemically based pesticides and it doesn't bother me to see 'imperfections' in my plants. I don't feel any one person can change the environment for the better or for the worse but collectively our efforts will make a difference. I applaud your conscious effort to use more environmentally friendly means of pest control. As bloggers spread the word that 'imperfect-looking' thriving gardens are more acceptable than 'perfect-looking' sterile gardens then we will affect the environment in a positive way. Thank-you for spreading the word.
Greg at Utah Valley Gardens blog.

Annie in Austin said...

Hello Kylee,

I enjoyed your post and the way you had an environmental conversation with your grandmother.

That starfish story is a old favorite, one I've often quoted when told that something I'm doing can't make any difference. Since the action affects both the starfish and the rescuer, it makes a difference to at least two creaures each time!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Katie said...


Nice post - great discussion. Love the starfish story and I'm glad you're making a difference in your local monarch population.

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

Such a well-written post, Kylee! I am agreement with you 100%! You make such a great point that you don't have to be over-the-top, you just have to do something. Also, I love your discussion about monarchs. I like your approach to making a difference. Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

kate said...

Now that I've subscribed to your blog, I'm reading it in my inbox and then thinking that I'll comment later here. Of course, later means I get distracted doing something else.

This was a well-thought-out and interesting post. I agree with you - we need to do our part and not think it's just futile. To me, it also applies to the political process and ensuring that our voice is heard.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Excellent post Kylee I enjoyed reading it! And you are right of course, if we all do our bit it will certainly make a difference.

And how wonderful that you had a nice chat with your grandmother about the environment!

Unknown said...

Great post, Kylee. You know, you got me thinking about all of the other changes they have seen in their lifetimes. I used to think it was quaint and old-fashioned that my grandmother saved scraps of material to use as trim, and that clothes got recycled into other clothes... now I feel badly for not knowing how to fix a pair of pants if the metal hook breaks (she just did that for me) or doing much more recycling than using old T-shirts as dustcloths and donating wearable things to The Salvation Army and the like.

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