Safely Tending Your Little Piece of the Earth

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Information is coming to light about the damage we are doing to our planet with modern farming techniques. Large areas of forest are being cleared to make way for farms. Huge tracts of trees are being removed, which as we explored last month, produce oxygen, clean the water, nourish and stabilize the soil and provide habitats for many of earth’s creatures.

The heavy use of fertilizer for industrial farming depletes the soil of necessary nutrients, then leaches into the ground, and seeps toward local bodies of water, which feed into larger bodies of water. The chemicals in these fertilizers are super-food for algae, which then form “blooms,” taking over large areas of water, using up oxygen, interfering with light penetration, suffocating marine life, and polluting drinking water.

Another issue comes with the use of pesticides and herbicides, which kill off all kinds of plants and animals that are part of an interdependent, interwoven existence.

Alternatives are emerging, but need a lot more public and industry support. The best long-term solutions point to working with nature, rather than trying to manipulate it. Nature relies on such an intricate web of mutual support between soil, water, air, insects, animals, decomposition, plants, roots, etc., that when we try to extract “the important part,” for our uses, we lose sight of the fact that it’s ALL important, because it all works together.

“Organic” gardening takes into consideration the inherent balance of nature, starting with good soil, rich with naturally occurring micro-organisms whose job it is to convert aspects of soil into food that is appropriate for plants. Then, plants don’t need so much fertilizer.

Organic gardening principles seek to prevent the loss of topsoil and reduce toxic runoff, which reduces water pollution and soil contamination. This in turn prevents the death of insects, birds, and other creatures. Stronger soil, healthier plants and a more varied ecosystem could well lead to less need for pesticides and herbicides. Plants in the ground naturally clean the water as it percolates through the soil, which benefits streams. So, when you choose to eat organic food, you are choosing not only the food itself, but you are influencing the impact of food production on the environment.

What can we do at home? One of the reasons for Earth For All Ages is to promote the idea that we all matter, and individual actions add up. If a lot of people do a few small things, the collective impact could be impressive.

“Within a natural ecosystem symbiotic relationships exist among plants, insects, birds and other animals. Plants in that ecosystem are the preferred food source and nesting place for insects that eat the plants’ leaves, drink the nectar of the plants’ flowers and lay their eggs on the leaves and stems. Birds eat the larvae of the insects, keeping populations in balance, as well as berries and seeds. The birds and insects in turn help the plant propagate itself by spreading its seeds and pollen, which then guarantees a continued food source. Nature’s virtuous circle. Take away the preferred food source and the circle is broken. The replacement plant may be attractive to the human eye but does not give the insects and birds what they need to survive.”

– Linda Fitzgerald, Master Gardener