Exchanging “non-native” trees and shrubs for equally or more beautiful “native” trees will provide sources of food and habitat for native insects and birds that are essential to our survival.
The late great humanist, biologist, environmental theorist, author and philosopher EO Wilson wrote: “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate itself to the rich state of balance that existed ten thousand years ago. . If the insects disappeared, the environment would collapse into chaos.
Why we don’t embrace and act on this truism is a question that has been going on for centuries, a question that I have considered to the point of concern. Every thought of gardening, cooking, and preserving food and habitat that comes to mind these days takes an unsettling and extremely inconvenient journey to the bug base of the web of life that exists (or does not exist) in our urban landscapes.
The deeper I dig into all things permaculture, bio-mimicry and self-regulating natural systems, the more I learn the truth about the interconnected and interdependent nature of things and the fragility of our future as a species.
This thing that differentiates us from all other species in all other realms – this thing that supposedly makes us “superior”, is the very thing that not only drove us to the brink, but also keeps us from coming back. back without hesitation.
Call it maybe ego, or greed, or perpetual dissatisfaction with anything and everything. I would say that’s selfish, but it wouldn’t be an accurate judgment of well-meaning legions who are simply misinformed and misled – who lack information and opportunities to correct their course.
I’m currently in an uncomfortable spot, having made the decision to clean up my bug baseline, or at least start doing so.
After reading Nature’s Best Luck by American entomologist, ecologist, conservationist and author Douglas W. Tallamy, I have been painfully and repeatedly reminded that in an evolutionary blink, non-indigenous cultures have all but decimated natural ecosystems around the world, and that humanity is just a blink of an eye away from extinction.
While it’s tempting to let others far more knowledgeable, capable and influential than me encourage top-down environmental politics to save us all, I know that election cycles, human nature and capitalist constructs will conspire to perpetuate the magical thinking that brought us. here in the first place.
On that note, I join Tallamy’s Homegrown National Park Citizen Gardener Network who are committed to protecting and creating habitats for native insects and birds in the home. By converting more lawn to low-growing evergreen native plants, rethinking our irrigation and stormwater management plan, planting small food forests and native species hedgerows specifically to provide food, shelter and reproductive security to insects, I can demonstrably contribute to planetary healing. while supporting a population of native insects beneficial to our vegetable gardens and food trees.
In an ideal world, builders, landscapers, home gardeners and community planners would always defer to non-exotic but ultimately beautiful native species, and avoid large expanses of non-native traditional lawn in spaces not designated for recreation. .
We are where we are, however, many of us – living in homes with established, manicured lawns, non-native hedges and trees, inefficient irrigation, and neighbors with legitimate concerns about maintaining property values.
I know it because, certainly, I am that. However, I am also committed to intentional and beautiful change. Making changes is a choice, and it’s certainly inconvenient. Standing in the muddy cold this week, soggy, dodging the pulsating sprinkler heads reported before the (magnificent) turf removal, before the irrigation overhaul, was most certainly inconvenient.
Redirecting this year’s vegetable garden improvement funds to underwrite infrastructure maintenance isn’t practical or scenic, but it’s fundamental to my classically-inspired re-wild.
Therein lies the key, I believe – the intention. Gradually swap beautiful “non-native” and ornamental shrubs, perennials, trees and ground covers that are not sources of food and habitat for native insects and birds that are essential to our survival, for ornamental shrubs” natives” just as beautiful or more beautiful, perennials, trees and ground covers that are.
By demonstrating that it can be done beautifully, I hope to challenge conventional thinking about how much lawn one needs for recreation. More importantly, perhaps, I hope to demonstrate that intentional native landscaping can increase property value in direct proportion to habitat. There’s so much more to the story, on the Homegrown National Park website.
Laura Marie Neubert is an urban permaculture designer based in West Vancouver. Follow her on Instagram @upfrontandbeautiful, learn more about permaculture by visiting her Upfront & Beautiful website, or send her your questions here.
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