Climate change, attitudes and native plants

Working with nature (organiclifestylemagazine)

Working with nature (organiclifestylemagazine)

Based on some of my experiences on native vs. non-native plants there seems to be a huge “argument” over this issue.

I couldn’t figure out why.

After having done research over the past many months I finally think I have reached an answer.

It’s about people’s feelings and emotions. It’s about facing something scary like climate change. Even where the evidence is so clear, no one wants to see it. Funny that. It’s like the boy who cried “the king has no clothes!”

If we think of the world as a woman, she doesn’t like to be naked. How many times have we seen an empty field with just dirt in a natural setting? I’ve only seen it when a farmer clears his/her land to get ready for planting. It seems to me Mother Nature doesn’t like bare earth. She tries very hard to cover up bare spots of earth as much as she can. It is places where humans have interfered where she is unable to and even then she tries and if given she would succeed.

A while ago, while attending a class on cloning by a Native Plant Society, which was a fabulous learning experience, I met a very nice woman who did a lot of good work. During the conversation, I said something that must have offended her. I did not intend this. It may have been my questioning. I like to ask questions. She started off by saying “I’m not here to argue with you!” I felt so badly I was almost in tears. To me hurting someone is not okay. Making someone angry without meaning to is to be avoided so I felt I had to say something to clear it up and rectify the situation. I stated that I didn’t mean any disrespect and didn’t feel we were arguing at all but having a very intelligent conversation and I was learning quite a bit from her (which is all true). Then to my astonishment, when I explained I was working on a permaculture certificate, she stated “Permaculturists are stupid.” She then went on to say very negative things about other people we knew quite well and we respected these people. It hurt me to hear them.

I left this incident behind but it stayed in my head. Why does she think permaculturists are stupid and why does she not like the same people I do? Is it personality or frustration in her personal life? I never went back and asked. She seemed a very angry person and I didn’t want to anger her further.

So I put my research hat on and started researching native plants in Northern California. Well, it seems thousands of native plants have gone extinct. A lot of it was due to people wanting the lovely European lawns which represent wealth. It broke a delicate ecosystem for our native species. People want pretty gardens, so out went the native plants and in came what we call “exotics” – roses, lawns and lilies etc.

During this time, climate change had been happening and was always downplayed. It happened at such a rate people didn’t realize how huge the change was. What is a degree or two? It will go back to normal. This is just a cycle. Well, apparently it is big – this two degree temperature change over a decade made enough of a difference to kill quite a few native plant varieties. Now in order to grow or bring back all native plant species would be a mountain of work and resources – Move everyone out, reverse climate change, make a law that we only grow native plants and work super hard to keep it alive since the climate is no longer really there. We can’t get them back. The temperature difference and eco-system balance is out of whack.

Humans also created culverts, ditches, parks, golf courses, homes and roads, etc. that affected these changes. When looking at some of these culverts made to help with flooding, they are green with what we consider weeds. In examining these so called weeds, I found that no other plant would survive the conditions except these unwanted weeds. I also found that these so called “weeds” were nitrifying the soil. So is it really a weed or a plant that can survive the climate change and help the damage to the landscape humans made?

I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an “invasive species.” These are plants that grow where no other plant can survive and against all odds they do. Native species have now become the “exotic” plant. We must work super hard to create a condition that will allow them to thrive. Not all but a few. We can plan our gardens using a native species that can handle the climate change, plant a few exotics that nitrifies the soil, and plant food. Which by the way food we grow is considered an “invasive species” if it is bok choy, Chinese cabbage, tat soy, etc. But this is food, and we can feed our families with it and know that we have a hand in helping native species and use Mother Nature in our favor by having faith in her in planting what she sees fit. Sure we can help out by planting seeds and using plants that nitrify soil so we can plant. We can compost, we can use different methods such as keyhole gardening, straw bale gardening, lasagna composting etc. We already have so many tools…

Now I understand the woman’s feeling against permaculturists. Not all of us are the same. I am not one who believes that everything has to be one way. I believe we can all use different methods to obtain the same results. She is so adamant that all plants should be native even if they can no longer handle the climate. She must be tired. I would be too. Now I understand her frustration. I get it. I feel for her.

Climate change doesn’t just destroy our planet…it has the power to destroy the human spirit too. This is such a bigger issue than I originally thought. I will not let that happen to me. We can and will do this. We must. Sustainability means we have to reverse the damage we have done. We have to be smarter, quicker, and be able to adapt. There is no other alternative. There is no room for failure only mistakes and those mistakes have much larger consequences than we originally thought.

*Liz Kim, Genesis Clock Farm | Sustainable Living, Education and Aquaponics

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Author: Liz Kim

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