December 9, 2008

Planting a More Perfect Union

At last, at last, a new administration has been elected to take the reins of government in Washington, and hope rises that Barack Obama will begin to lead our country out of its long, ugly morass of launching wars, stealing the world's wealth and despoiling the environment. Many of us are ready and willing to participate in propagating a new era of peace, growth, health and being good stewards of this green and golden earth. For gardeners and smallholders at this turning of the year and our country's path, what can we do to help? Thinking about this and wanting to pitch in for the communal good, here follows my impromptu list of actions gardeners could undertake to contribute to rebuilding wellbeing on the planet.

Plant trees. Give a home to birds, clean the air and generate fresh oxygen, shade and protect dwellings from sun and storms to reduce energy demands. Keep your neighborhood from becoming a tundra or desert.

Reduce energy demands and pollution. Use ceiling and window fans instead of heavily polluting air conditioners, open the windows in cars and let the breeze cool you. If we're hotter in summer, cooler in winter, that's okay -- don't fall into the earth-hurting trap of trying to maintain a perfect, unnatural 70-degree temperature wherever you are, all year round. If there is a lawn that really must be cut, use hand, solar or electric-powered mowers rather than carbon-dioxide spewing gas mowers. Build a windmill. Power water fountains and features with solar energy. Use a rake or a shovel, not noisy, dirty leaf and snow-blowers.

Conserve water. Shut down automatic sprinkler systems that spray automatically at set intervals, rain or shine. Put a rain barrel under eaves where water runs off, use the captured rainwater on the garden and save your foundation from floods. Don't waste fresh water resources on grass, let it go brown in dry spells, brown is a color too. Use water from boiled vegetables for watering house and container plants, vegetable water is full of nutrients and oxygen. Ban toxic pesticides and fertilizers from your garden (remember any chemical that kills bugs and slugs will also hurt pets, children and gardeners), keep these chemicals from running off into the water table, where they cause algae growth and fish kill.

Plant a victory garden. Cut down on purchase of foods transported in trucks, trains and other internal-combustion engine machines. Save money on groceries. Produce fruit and vegetables to share with neighbors and food banks. Get cutting flowers from your yard instead of shipped thousands of air miles from far and distant lands.

Buy local and support community businesses. Shopping at nearby garden centers, farms and orchards, seed and feed suppliers, bookstores, and other small businesses preserves jobs and the local economy. It eliminates truck, airplane and other carbon-heavy miles for mail-ordered or shipped-in goods. Local food sources will give you fresher, safer, known-source comestibles for the table, plantings and art for the garden.

Turn off engines. Don't let trucks, cars or SUVs idle for more than five minutes, the carbon dioxide and particulates from them harm plants, animals, fresh water and people. Use cross-country skis or ice skates instead of snowmobiles that tear up the earth. Use canoes, sailboats, kayaks instead of water and fish-killing motor-driven watercraft. Walk, ride a bike, ride a horse or public transport as often as possible as an alternative to driving.

Clean up as you go. It's inconceivable how anyone can just toss trash down on their Mother, but some do. Be a counter-trasher when out and about in your neighborhood, on trails, beaches, parks, in the city. Pick up the plastic and non-decomposing trash you come across, bring it to a trash receptacle. Carry a bag with you for litter and discarded bottles, cans, cigarette butts, styrofoam, your next stroll and that of others will be nicer. Your Mother and her denizens will look and be healthier.

Vote only for candidates who will fight for and take care of the earth. Support efforts to green up your community with hybrid public transportation, low-energy and non-petroleum-fueled building and utility practices, rehabilitation and reuse of existing building stock rather than new development, recycling programs for waste, creation and preservation of parks, wildlife habitats, community gardens, green spaces. As we undertake together the nation's fresh start, my goals are to go forward in peace and engage in actions to make my corner of the earth better because of my tenancy upon it.

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