I have had some great experiences with folks who desire to plant more sustainable landscapes. some good background on turning your property into a nature scape can be found here.
Here in Green Bay, our city council has charged a subcommittee with the task of rewriting our local weed ordinance. It seems that a few locals complain about unsightly growth and the city has come under fire for not having a process for dealing with the ever increasing numbers of people who wish to grow food, medicine and more natural plants rather than doing the work of keeping a manicured lawn.
I have written repeatedly about reducing the area covered with turf grass to cut the use of fossil fuels and the resulting air emissions from mowing. Through a friend, i was made aware of this process and as I sat horrified at my first committee meeting, the group of elected officials held firm top their arbitrary understanding of the issue and was dumbfounded when almost no discussion was allowed on this important topic.
Instead of trying to find ways to lessen the public outcry through education and trying to uphold the rights of individuals to enjoy the fruits of their labors and landscapes, the members of the committee seemed happy to require property owners to jump through hoops to protect the organisms that they choose to surround themselves with. If there are noxious weed ordinances in your community, how do they affect you? What sorts of freedoms are we willing to sacrifice for our “community”? How far should our understanding of nature take us? What will the result of this current tactic bring for future generation and when will the intrusive hand of government let us practice safe landscaping?
All these questions are intended to try to understand the reluctance of our government officials to even allow salient discussion on the issue before making up their minds in favor of further reducing freedom in support of the nosy neighbors who refuse to understand that dandelions are a food crop. Today I learned that skunk cabbage raises it’s temperature by up to thirty degrees for several weeks in spring. It “burns” calories stored as starch and utilizes oxygen to perhaps lure in insects during its crucial pollination period. Wonders of nature deserve a place in our lives, if not for the sheer joy of our appreciation of them, but for what they provide for other elements and players within the biosphere.
As our population ages and the cost of traveling to nature gets ever-higher, we need more urban refuges in which to appreciate nature at arms length as it were. I appreciate my neighbor’s fascination with golf course-like green turf, but for heaven’s sake, let them enjoy their own and not force others to share their dream of a perfect lawn. My freedom ends where the other person’s nose begins, but for once realize that our heads are on a swivel and looking across the property line need only concern us if poisons or hazards are crossing over into our yards.
The most dangerous thing that has crept out of my neighbor’s natural landscape has been blackberries and each summer I look forward to an afternoon or two of getting scratched up and a bellyful of their sweet fruit.