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"Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, waterbugs, tadpoles, frogs & turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, hickory nuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets – and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education." -Luther Burbank 1849 - 1926
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America's Ecosystems

I live on the West coast...and recently flew to the East coast for a brief visit. Having just moved to the West coast from the East coast you can imagine the time warp and intense contrasts and emotional memories of "place" that I experienced.

  • To see the striking differences and similarities of the two ecosystems ... Coastal Desert and Eastern Woodlands was very enlightening.
  • What is the status of "America's backyard"? Flying over the vast expanses of open space gives you the feeling that we still live in a wilderness. Yet when we take that giant step onto the surface, the impact of human activities is intense.
  • From the air, a mountain is a mountain...a valley is a valley. Deserts don't look much different than the plains.
  • From the air our cities look like clusters of gopher villages nestled in the hills and forests. They grow around bodies of water, just like wildlife communities.
  • From the ground it is fascinating to see the miles and miles of stone fences built over the past 200 years in our Eastern woodlands. It is visually shocking to see square miles of pavement and hard faced buildings competing with lacy fringes of trees breaking through the hardpan of city cement. And when we journey through the countryside, it is enlightening to find that nature can heal itself if given the time and opportunity.
  • New Hampshire one hundred years ago was a bustling center of sheep farming with its rolling hills tamed with those endless miles of stone fences and grazing pastures. The wool fed the woolen mills along the snow-fed streams. But today, one hundred years after the cotton gin moved the center of the textile industry south, nature has reclaimed those hills. The woodlands have reground. The bears and deer and beaver and birds and frogs and fish are back. Humans who live in these former industrial expanses are now neighbors to wildlife much like the pioneers of two hundred years ago.
  • away in the spring muddy season.
  • Deer visit gardens and must be chased away.
  • Bear create the occasional adrenaline rush that reminds you that nature isn't all beauty and tranquillity.
  • Birds chatter and fight for territory and the means to survive.
  • And humans fit right in...fighting for territory, growing gardens, building businesses, traveling to and fro to congregate for communal survival.
water feature, pond, fish pond, landscape, waterscaping
Whether your water feature is a fish pond, a canal, or a slowly meandering stream, cascading landscape roses will take color all the way to the water's edge. Flower Carpet-Pink by Tesselaar
It's encouraging to see that nature can reclaim and replenish itself. We need to witness that capacity occasionally, in order to put our activities into perspective. This ebb and flow of nature's seasons and systems are a life-support system that we can use as a model for our own daily activities at home and at work.

Nature fluctuates from years of abundance to years of drought and scarcity. Years of abundance, such as we just saw with El Nino's excessive endowments of weather—from rain to tornadoes and snows—created abundant vegetative growth. In Southern California that brings the danger of more and larger wild fires. In the Eastern Mountains, it brings the added weight of snow and ice that topple trees. In the cities it brings floods as well as unusually intense beauty in well-manicured landscapes. And years of abundance can give way to years of scarcity...and then years of abundance....and on and on.

Experiencing a broad range of natural environs reminds us that even though we have different terrain, different plant and animal species (or subspecies), we also have a lot in common. Weather is not a local phenomenon. It travels. Pollution is not a local phenomenon. It travels. Animals vary by subspecies and a few unique families in diverse ecosystems. Animals travel. And as a result, we share in the well-being of our environment that provides life-support through animals, plants, soil, mountains, valleys, and waterways.

The choice to conserve or consume is common to all ecological locations. Details can vary, but basic concepts are common to us all...such as
  • Recycle
  • Reuse
  • Conserve
We've developed a number of folk sayings that show we've known the wisdom of ecological lifestyles..."Live lightly on the land", and "Waste not, want not"...are common tenets of ecological wisdom. The tough part is putting them into practice day after day after day.

Waste and poor planning impacts hundreds or even thousands of square miles of habitat and landmass. We've learned that acid rain on our mountain top forests kills trees and a wide range of wildlife and plants depending on that habitat. We've experienced the strength of mighty rivers when they reclaim their downward paths in spite of our efforts to re-route them. We've learned that mining can pollute an entire ecosystem's water supplies with natural chemicals that are harmful when removed from their natural environs...and we've dentified the havoc that invasive or introduced plants and animals create for native species, and the balance of the ecosystem.

The self-protective sentiment of "not in my backyard" offers us new insight and motivation when we apply it to our community, our country's backyard, and our global backyard. But the counterpoint of "not in my backyard" is " our backyard!"

We can prevent damage to the natural system, and take positive steps to rebalance nature when human activities damage the habitats and biomass that sustain us. We can create native habitat in our counteract thoughtless or deliberate damage that has occurred.

First comes knowledge of nature's ways. By experiencing and learning from nature's variety, I have developed a healthy skepticism about the ever-changing "latest and greatest" human technologies, and an even healthier respect for the viability of "living lightly on the land" so that our water is clean, air is fresh and soil is productive.

Our life-support system is already in place and operational.

Let's protect it and safeguard our quality of life.

REMEMBER to take your nature break :-)

For more articles about ENJOYING NATURE

Botanical Garden Links
California Poppy Reserve
The Botanical Garden and Montreal Insectarium
America's Ecosystems
California Poppy Reserve
California Agritourism