James Lovelock, a scientist and environmentalist whose theories I occasionally raise an eyebrow at, has one really killer quote about the relationship between humans and the Earth: “I would sooner expect a goat to succeed as a gardener than expect humans to become stewards of the Earth.” On bad days, I wholeheartedly agree. As a species, we’re not particularly good at acting for the greater good over the longer term. Resources? Use ’em till they’re gone.
However, we’re capable as individuals, if not as a species, of seeing what we take and wanting to give back. The responses to my last post on The Giving Tree suggest that most of us think environmentalism should be about not only reducing our impact, but also acting to create positive changes to foster biodiversity, balance, and sustainability.
I feel like a lot of the popular environmental messages — use reusable bags, switch to CFLs, wash on cold — have gotten a bit bogged down on the reducing impact side. Reducing impact is good; developing the kind of consciousness that will make ubiquitous ’20 easy ways to save the Earth’ type lists totally unnecessary is even better. But at some point, we also need to recognize that we won’t achieve zero impact unless we go back to living like our ancestral apes. (And given our present population, not even then.) However, we might still get the scale to balance if we adopt a more active type of environmentalism that goes beyond our own lives.
Trickier than changing a light bulb, that’s for sure. Especially if you happen to be an introverted homebody who would rather stay home with the cat than get out and do something (ahem). But as I see it, there are three basic categories for action:
- Volunteer. Plant trees and restore native flora to reduce soil erosion, spend a few hours a week weeding at an organic farm, participate in coastal clean-ups, trap and spay feral cats that decimate native songbird populations…bet there are some opportunities right within your neighborhood.
- Reach out. Get involved with your city government’s green department, provide information and advice to people who are already receptive to going green, talk to people who aren’t, start an office recycling program, be a shining example of imperfect but earnest, thoughtful, and respectful environmentalism. Oh yeah, and keep a green blog. 🙂
- Donate. The environmental movement can’t run on idealism alone. Some of our biggest problems occur in places far beyond our individual reach. Although large non-profit environmentalism organizations are not without their problems (Monsanto donates heavily to Nature Conservancy, for example), they do have longer arms and deeper pockets and have achieved significant victories for the environmental movement. Or, if you’d rather the money stayed local, find a small non-profit or environmental project in your immediate area and donate to them.
To put my money where my mouth is, I took a small step and made seed bombs this weekend. They could hardly have been simpler. As with my cooking, I didn’t measure anything, and I used materials I already had on hand. The recommended proportions are 5 parts clay to 1 part soil and 1 part seeds, but as long as you have more clay than soil and seeds, I expect you’ll be fine. You will need:
- Powdered clay (I used potter’s clay)
- Native, low-maintenance flower seeds (mine was a California coastal wildflower mix)
Mix dry ingredients and add just enough water to moisten. Roll into balls and allow to dry. (Need more detail? Here’s a video on making seed bombs.) Toss into vacant lots, abandoned corners, bare dirt, and anywhere some color and native species would be appreciated. Guerilla gardening at its most basic. I already have several bare lots in mind…
What are your thoughts on making a positive impact? What are you already doing?