Are we nature's best hope? We may be and that's good news to my ears because with our support nature can be incredibly resilient. Caryn Bosson, a longtime Ojai Trees Board member recently read this lovely book and wrote this heart-felt recommendation and call to action.
There’s hope for dwindling Monarch butterflies, because humans have begun prizing the plant their lives depend on, native milkweed, and planting it in home landscapes. But it’s not only butterflies which have a life-or-death relationship with native plants. Human life depends on them too. Healthy native plant communities, the ones that evolved in place over thousands of years, are at the root of everything we depend on: from fresh water to oxygen to protection, food and shelter.
We are losing our insects and birds, among other species of life, at alarming rates as these native ecosystems are under assault: paved over, built on, and replaced by the ecological dead-zones of lawns. By some estimates, more than half of the country’s lands have been turned into “the urban/suburban matrix” where nature has been chopped into smaller and smaller fragments, becoming vulnerable to invasive species taking over, as well as increased risk of drought and fire.
These are depressing facts, but there’s a message of hope that’s eloquently and practically offered by Douglas Tallamy in his book “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard” He shows how we can all participate in turning this situation around, and that we can do it where we live, work and recreate.
The good news is that nature is incredibly resilient. We've seen this in Ojai, on Land Conservancy properties that have come back to flowering life through dedicated volunteer labor. But even in tiny yards we can increase the numbers and well-being of birds, insects, and other species who depend on them.
What’s more, Tallamy describes how we can focus on planting the truly vital plant species, the ones which support multiple other life forms, particularly moths and butterflies, as caterpillars are prime food for numerous species of birds. Top choice: oak trees. Besides their benefits in absorbing carbon and recharging groundwater, native oaks support a huge amount of life as compared with other tree species, even other native ones.
Tallamy challenges the idea that nature is somehow “out there.” He offers the vision of a “Homegrown National Park,” planted by all of us: “What if each landowner made it a goal to convert half of his or her lawn to productive native plant communities? Even moderate success could collectively restore some semblance of ecosystem functions to more than twenty million acres of what is now ecological wasteland.” That’s a larger area than a dozen other National Parks, combined, and accessible to every one of us.
To find out more about nature’s best hope, read this book now, then get ready to order more oak trees to plant this fall in your property or at other locations in the Ojai Valley. Visit us at www.ojaitrees.org for more information.