Today is Bloggers Action Day and the topic is Climate Change. As a nature lover and biologist I consider this to be an important topic. There are a great many sources out there that discuss the evidence that the global climate is changing. And there are a great many blogs out there that talk about ways to limit your carbon footprint and therefore reduce your personal impact (check out Garden Rant for other garden bloggers' views). I tried to come up with something a little different.
Global Climate Change is happening. The optimistic, objective biologist in me believes that nature will survive and wonders how it will adapt. The pessimistic, way too human side wonders which species will go extinct and mourns for species that are going extinct. Both sides want to do something to help and have come up with some less tradition things to recommend. Most of these will be easy for the conscientious gardener.
Your yard is a component of the natural environment. Many, many creatures depend on your yard for their livelihood. They take shelter in your foundation shrubs, drink water from your gutters and raise their families high up in the trees (or under the rocks or in burrows under the soil). The things you do in your yard impact your local environment.
1. Diversity provides strength in an environment. If one component fails there is something else that can takes its place. Strive for diversity in your yard. A monoculture lawn is highly vulnerable to pests and disease, that's why it requires so much in the way of pesticides and reseeding. Diversity your lawn and garden by adding some native plants, and then add some plants that aren't so common in your area, and toss some clover seed down on that lawn (and don't worry so much about the dandelions). Just like in an uncontrolled environment if one component of your garden fails there is something else there to take up the slack. Diversity in your yard will increase the diversity in the local environment, leaving it more able to handle the pressures of climate change. (Just avoid plants that are invasive and will spread to neighbors' yards an natural areas).
2. Don't mow so often. Thursday is the day the lawn service comes to my block and mows, edges, and blows several lawns whether they need it or not. I let my grass get pretty high before I mow. Less mowing means less CO2 produced by my mower. And I hand tidy the edges with a hoe rather than a powered weed whacker. And I leave the glass where it falls rather than blow it or bag in and drive it to the landfill. I don't fertilize my lawns (except for mulching in place the leaves that fall on the grass this time of year). Less fertilizer means less watering and less mowing. And my grass stays just as green as my neighbors' lawns.
3. Accept wildlife in your garden. You may not like those slugs eating your hostas but those slugs provide food to other animals. It seems like no big deal to remove a pest species but everything in the local ecosystem is interconnected and the ecosystems around us are being put under increasing stress by various pressures, including climate change. Remember what I said about diversity? Those slugs are part of the diversity. Remove them and you may remove a crucial food source for their predators. Do you know what their predators are? Do you want to live without them?
Lastly let me mention one very controversial thing you can do to help save the Earth. Have fewer children. Take a minute to get over your shock. Do you need to breath into a paper bag? Breathe! Feel better? OK. Here we go. The planet's population is too high to be sustained given the ecological costs of modern living. The footprint of a human living in a first world country is quite large. I for one don't want to give up modern amenities like heat, the Internet, refrigeration, being able to buy exotic and out of season produce at the grocery store (and I live in New England so eating locally won't get me through the winter), traveling to exotic places, and the all important hot shower. If you want these amenities for your children and grandchildren you need to have fewer of them. The Earth has limited resources and the more people who want those resources the fewer of them there is for each of us, human, plant and animal.