I took a long ride through the countryside, by myself, yesterday afternoon. There's nothing like the road-less-traveled to help one sort out one's thoughts.
As I rode down dirt roads through wild, wooded areas I felt a sense of gratitude for being able to experience this life in the country- in places that are exactly as they were meant to be. I filled my lungs with fresh, clean air and listened to the sound of dry leaves crunching beneath my wheels and crickets chirping in the dense underbrush of the woods. Having this intimate relationship with Mother Nature gives me the inspiration to help preserve it for generations to come.
We cannot move forward, however, without taking a good hard look at how we got here.
There's a need for change in this world- and a need to learn from our mistakes. We must rethink where and how we live and every other aspect of our lives so that we are not recklessly using up our natural resources and leaving our waste for future generations. Our environmental dilemma is multi-faceted. Obviously all of the problems are inter-related. However, in this "Friday" exploration, I find it easier to examine just one issue at a time.
Our beautiful planet Earth was designed to be the perfect symbiotic, regenerative system... where each part of the whole was dependent upon the other - with a simple elegance in its amazing intricacy.
We were given a world that offered everything we needed to survive. Our problems began when mankind became greedy. We wanted more...for less...and we wanted it faster and with less work. We took what we needed from the earth without regard for giving back to the earth. Instead of acting as stewards of the world we'd been given, we took dominion over it and enslaved it- with nary a thought or care for the damage we left in our wake. No, "progress" was our goal.
We are now paying the price for the greed and the "progress" we sought, and the world we love is in jeopardy. Each one of us carries the burden of mankind's unsure future and each one of us can play a part in the eventual outcome. Although the solution to this global problem feels overwhelming and insurmountable, it is actually quite simple. We need to take the carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide) that is floating around our atmosphere heating things up, and put it down below the surface of the earth where it belongs.
Ok, well, that sounds difficult and complicated. So, let's get busy and find the technological "fix", right?
Ahhh... but this is the beauty of our earth and it's incredible design. The "fix" already exists. Plant-life has the extraordinary ability, through the process of photosynthesis, to remove carbon dioxide (a molecule formed with one carbon atom attached to two oxygen atoms) from the atmosphere- taking some of the carbon to build more plant matter and transporting the rest down through its roots into the soil... while at the same time returning the freed-up oxygen atoms back into the atmosphere for us to breathe. This is an absolutely amazing and miraculous process. Simple and extraordinary.
Since 1600, we have cut down 75% of this country's virgin woodlands. Beyond the US, deforestation is happening at an alarming rate. The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from deforestation is second only to the amount released from fossil fuel emission. Loss of habitat, drought, and erosion are just a few more in a long list of ills caused by deforestation.
We've previously talked about ways in which we can decrease our carbon footprint. And all of those things are extremely helpful. But, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that we release into the atmosphere through the use of fossil fuels is only half of the equation. The other half lies in helping to pull that carbon dioxide back down out of the atmosphere to be sequestered in the earth.
How can we help?
Plant like your life depends upon it. Obviously, not everyone has the space or ability to plant... but if you do, I offer some things to think about.
A mature tree has the ability to pull 48 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year. And although grass has the ability to also use and fix the carbon from carbon dioxide, it does so to a lesser degree than trees. So, although a big grassy lawn is lovely... trees are better for the environment.
Some of the ways that we care for our lawns affect the lawns' overall carbon footprint and even the amount of carbon that the lawns are able to sequester. Obviously, unless you use the old-fashioned (but still highly effective) human powered, push grass mower- you are mowing your lawn with a gas-powered or electicity-powered mower and adding to carbon dioxide emissions.
Perhaps it is time to re-think the way we plan our yards and also re-think the aesthetics of lawns.
Let's consider planting less grassy areas and more trees and shrubs (both deciduous and evergreen)... and, when able, areas for growing our own food. Less grass equals less mowing! That's a win/win no matter how you look at it.
I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that we need to stop using lawn care companies who spray on fertilizers and broad-leaf weed killers in order to have perfect weed-free lawns. Perhaps it's time to challenge our aesthetic ideals and celebrate the versatile (and edible) dandelion and allow our children to play on chemical-free grass.
A lawnmower that also mulches can allow for less frequent mowing and natural fertilization. Allowing fine grass clippings to fall into the grass and decay helps to naturally fertilize the grass.
There is nothing that makes me sadder than driving through a newly built neighborhood (where the existing woods have been removed for the building process) and seeing no trees. I believe builders should be encouraged to leave as many trees untouched as they build and then to replace a percentage of the felled trees with new ones.
You may no longer be physically able to plant a tree in your own yard, but perhaps having your family plant a tree for you might be a good gift idea. Or... consider giving a tree as a gift. Most of us don't need more "stuff"... but we ALL need more trees!
How special would it be to commemorate family milestones with the planting of trees! I am sure that each of us would love to have watched our very own tree grow along side of us. What better way to help children learn the value of trees than for them to witness the life of their very own tree.
I am sure that the falling leaves of autumn might be a deterrent to some when thinking of planting a yard full of trees. Many municipalities collect leaves for mulching. Dead leaves are a vital part of any compost pile. However, those leaves can also be mowed and left on the yard as fertilizer (which is what we do with the leaves in our front yard). The last place we want leaves to end up is in the trash.
Using sustainable alternatives to wood, such as bamboo, for construction, is another consideration.
On a global scale, we need to make serious changes to our agricultural industry. As a nation, we pay over 20 billion dollars yearly as subsidies, for crops such as corn and soybeans that only add to the environmental problems.
Those subsidies could be better spent for the return of some of that agricultural land to its wild state. As citizens, we need to push for legislation for a comprehensive national food policy with farming techniques that are innovative and science-based. "The way we've always done it" no longer serves us. Monoculture does not serve us. Growing real food serves us. Planting trees serves us.
The solution to global warming exists... we just need to be willing to make the necessary changes. I again urge you to watch the documentary "Kiss The Ground".... on Netflix. You will be inspired and filled with hope. And goodness, right now, we need to feel hope!
PS.... if you left me a comment on Wednesday asking about my grazing muzzles... email me - I have a coupon for you to use for $25 off a grazing muzzle.
beehavenmaven [at] gmail.com
Have a great weekend!!
And remember... Fall is a great time to plant a tree!!