Elizabeth McGreevy Restoration Ecology
The other day I was talking with my neighbor about his front yard. He asked me what he could do to make it better. I told him he could start by pulling out the plastic edging rings around his trees and agaves, then to stop mowing and let things grow. Once plants start to emerge, he could pick and choose what he wants to keep. Since these are plants that grew up all by themselves, in this place, in this soil, these plants will have required no purchase, no trips to the store, and no irrigation. I then told him that this fall, when his leaves fall, he should leave them where they fall and sweep the leaves on your driveway back under the trees. I told him his trees and soil will be happy and he will not have to rake all the leaves, put them into bags for the City to pick them up and haul them away. He also will not have to drive to the store to purchase bags of mulch that he would then have to spread. And finally, he will have no plastic bags left over that will end up in the landfill because they cannot be recycled.
Basically, everything I told my neighbor was a 180 from what I had been taught in graduate school. There, we were taught to domesticate nature by forcing exotic plants into designs, importing non-native soils, mulching heavily and then relying in irrigation and mow and blow companies to maintain the artificial system.
My neighbor just stared at me, then said, “okay, that sounds much easier than what I’ve been doing.” He leaned over and started pulling out the plastic edging. In my neighborhood, we can do this. But most neighborhoods will not allow such an approach because it is feared this would negatively affect property values.
The reason we end up needing to spend so much time, money, and water to maintain our plants is because we are not following the laws of nature. Instead, we do our best to control it.
What if, instead, we incorporated the functional needs of nature into our designs? What if we made these needs the priority and made humans needs secondary? Could we, as ego based humans, truly allow such designs to be?
The truth is, we may no longer have a choice. It is time to let go of our attempts to control nature and instead learn to work with nature.