Sunday, August 12, 2012

This is Freaking Important

The question has arisen, to be discussed:

What is the point of all of this: 
"Rock Gardens," 
plant collecting, 
and whatnot?

What good does it really do?

(assuming that all things to which time and effort are devoted must "do" some "good." )

Wear a bib because this is going to get messy.

The "Day of Seven Billion" was announced on Halloween (honestly- I'm scared) of last year (2011) by the United Nations. (1)  As living things on this consistently-sized sphere, we cannot help but take up more resources in order to live as we do. (the last three words being extra hot potatoes in political realms) -Resources such as land, which we must use in different ways to provide for our many needs (which are inextricably tied up with "desires;" some butter for those philosophical hot potatoes,)  from roads for transport, farmland for food, grazing land for food, houses for living spaces, to reservoirs for water storage.  Essential things.  Also- slopes for skiiing. Land.  That is what has been taken up in Europe and set to extinciton five of seven species of neo-tulips, or Leiostomones botanical group.  One of which, at least, lost its last brushtroke on earth to being a ski-slope.  Once plentiful, now mostly extinct.

The value of a species?
Emotional value: The world could still spin without tigers, but who would dare say aloud that we ought not protect them?  And, the world may still spin without them, but what would it be like? Not as good, I say.  Not as good. Take out your intellectual steak-knife, and slowly chew on this, from the world's authority on ants:  "For every problem in a given discipline of science, there exists a species, or entity, or phenomenon ideal for its solution.  And, conversely, for every species of other entity, or phenomenon, there exists important problems for the solution of which those particular objects of research are ideally suited. "(3)

Some interpret his thought like this: save plants because we may cure cancer, say, with a compound from a plant, like this Orchid, Coelogyne odoratissima.  (I saw it hanging out on a cliff near Doddabetta, the highest point in Tamil Nadu, India:)

A Coelogyne odoratissima plant in bloom, in cultivation.

But that is only bringing a species of plant from its native place and increasing its odds of survival by speading it around.    Conservation goes beyond exotic alpines from Tien-shan being grown in Denver: it can be  natives of any place taken from the hillsides and brought into local gardens. It, too, does a world of good.  Native insects, for example, find less of their necessary partners in survival when land becomes domestic.  Unless that domestic land offers them those plants...

The incredibly Biodiverse garden (in May) of John Stireman of Sandy, Utah, phot credit to him. Last I saw it in July, it was abuzz with all sorts of tiny ground-nesting wasps who play critical roles in the ecosystem.  I was so distracted by how many different wasps milling about that I at times missed the plants.  I am certain they are not as at-home in a  completely-turfed-in yard.

This point will be anecdotal.  I imagine that I will only contribute to the reader's own list of moments in which our colleagues in civilisation betray a total lack of understanding of nature, not to mention natural systems.
-I've heard more than once about kids who literally do not know where cheese comes from.
-The average youth will be able to help me with the difference between an "Android" phone and an "iphone," but would completely fail to know the difference between a tomato, potato, or even a carrot plant.  I have been hollowly shocked to observe this in my vegetable garden with visitors- adults and kids alike.
-I heard a story about a larch being cut down because it was mistaken for a "pine" which died.  (a larch is a deciduous conifer which is meant to loose its needles)
-My dear roommate says "bee" when he describes the animals that stung him when he accidentally disturbed a metal-tubed post with a nest in it.  These are paper wasps/aerial hornets:  truly aggressive beasties, whereas bees are peacable flower-patrons we all rely upon for our food production.
-A friend hosting a garden tour this year was asked by a visitor what the red things hung in a tree were.  Have we forgotten that apples grow on trees?
-One last little one, just for me:  I finally realised a month ago that, until now, in Western Colorado, when I use the term "Rock garden" with an average person, they thought I was talking about those yards completely covered in gravel, maybe with different colours of gravel, maybe with some big stones here and there, and not necessarily any plants in it.  I was
truly humbled by my unclear terms.

Photo: The fantastic rock garden of Tony Stireman, circa Salt Lake City, Utah.  A real Rock Garden.

Let us think about how dangerous it is to make decisions about ecology as a society when we have so far removed ourselves:  i.e. How can we buy and spray pests (bees/wasps) when we don't even know what they are?  How can we vote on an issue or decide what kind of things to buy which feed into or derive from nature?  This includes our own food.

Let us not criticise.  Let us fix it, one neighbour at a time.

We must know about nature for the sake of nature.  We must undertand it, too, for our own sake, which is the angle from which comes Richard Louv, Author of Last Child in the Woods, in which the point is made that exposure to nature is critical in a child's (read: person's) health- mental and physical.

The home garden is often an urban person's front-line experience with wild nature, if not a person's first experience with nature as a child.

Like all great causes and hobbies, both words which will describe rock gardening and plant collecting irrespecitvely: the actual action of gardening is soulfood in a world that can feel, at times, so tedious and perilous, while fixing that very problem.  I have sold perennial flowers to so many lawers, airline pilots, shrinks, accountants, professors, and realtors who expressly use their garden as a sanctuary- mental, physical, and emotional.

People, too, are brought together by seed exchanges, plant sales, construction too heavy for one person, and moments like a planthunter arriving into a village looking for a certain wildflower, only to enlist a local, which results in the the two people exchanging different ideas and experiences while actually having one together.  Plants bring people together.

This is Peace.

Mimulus guttatus above Blue Lake, West of Crested Butte, CO, two weeks ago.

Keep gardening. 
Collect plants.  
Share with others.

It's important.

Mr. Deiken Jones, 9, knows very well what a Hedgehog cactus is!  He informs me that his favourite local cactus is the fishhook cactus.  Amen!
Monument Canyon, Colorado National Park, Grand Junction, CO

(1) World Population, Wikipedia:

(2) Tulipes Sauvages (Wild Tulips)

(3) Advice to Young Scientists, Dr. E.O. Wilson (Harvard Prof. Emeritus) in a lecture for TED Talks.


Acantholimon said...

Hear Hear! Love your post. And I agree with every apostrophe and period, not to mention the words they punctuate!

Amazing that anyone surrounded by the book cliffs, Mt. Garfield, The Grand Mesa and Uncompaghre wouldn't know what a rock garden was!

Lucie K said...

Whoa. You are thinking some big thoughts here which I will have to read and re-read and slowly digest over time...All provocative and good! The world needs you! Reading your big picture view makes me a feel a bit egocentric in that I have always thought I garden first and foremost for my own sanity, and, oh yeah, to jolt those neighbors with eyes plastered to TVs from from their slumber!

ineedacupoftea said...

"Acantholimon"- I remember you wrapping up a lecture once with this theme, and used a phrase that has stuck permanently-(and this is paraphrased, I am sure) that "kids thesedays are growing up not in gardens, but in cyberspace." Thanks, sir.

Lucie; If you can secure your sanity while aiding the planet, you've got a fine choice in sanity-seeking actiivties! Two electronic birds with one ironically metaphorical stone.

I refrained from waxing literally poetic and including part of all of Richard Brautigan's "All watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace," but distrust in technology, luddites, at all, is a different theme with a longer history...