Saturday, June 24, 2017

How Our Planet Dies (Starvation?)

Credit: pinterest
This is a bee garden too beautiful for words, but the
same ends can be accomplished with a much more
modest beginning.
There can be little doubt that we are on the wrong track for our own survival.  Here’s a good indication.  The story on CBS that I heard stated that we have lost 80% of our pollinators in North America in the last 20 years.  Pollinators, for the most part, are bees and butterflies.  In real understandable terms, pollinators are responsible for one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat.  Without them, we cannot produce enough food to feed ourselves, let alone the rest of the world that we have historically exported to.  Between being on track to lose crops and potable water supplies from other causes, we all are looking at the foreseeable day when our children will suffer from both insufficient food and water.

Beautiful blossoms burst into bloom from new milkweeds
started this year.  There are annual milkweeds, but these
are perennials.  To tag them as weeds certainly doesn't fit.
I went looking for more data, and the picture gets more complicated depending on the species of bees or butterflies we are talking about.  For example, commercial beekeepers lost 44% of their hive populations in one year, 2015-2016.  Plus, not all pollinating bees live in hives.  Many species live their entire lives individually in plants and in the ground, but they also raise our crops.  Their numbers are estimated to have dropped by 96%, that is 96%, in the same 20 years.  Some species are believed to be already extinct.

This is our small beginning.  There are four o'clocks
in the background, orange milkweeds in the middle,
and bee balm in the foreground.  As they propagate, we
will continue to transplant further down the swale.

So, what can we do?  The current approach is to stop waiting for our governments to do anything.  We could start a whole on-line battle on what administration is eradicating the EPA, FEMA, the Food & Drug Administration and so on, and planning to destroy more efforts to protect food supplies, protect us from pesticides, etc.  And, the federal government isn’t the only problem.  Here in Oklahoma, the state is owned by the oil and gas industry.  There are ongoing problems with fracking, with water quality, with earthquakes, and too many other problems to get into, but the point is that the state has no intention of taking any measures to protect our citizens over the desires of the oil and gas industry’s demands for more tax gifts (otherwise called incentives), more tax breaks, more land rights, and so on.  They just won’t do it.  So if we can’t count on the federal government, and we can’t count on the state government, where do we turn?  The answer to that is the current move underway to get every homeowner to make a difference individually.  Here’s an example.

The four o'clocks are going gang busters.  They reseeded
from plants we had there last year.  The pollinators
love them.
We have a small swale (little gully or ravine) that runs down our back yard.  It is a mess to mow, and serves no useable function in our yard or lawn.  We are turning it into a bee and butterfly garden.  People are being encouraged to turn small tracts of ground into feeding stations for bees and butterflies.  Most people are familiar with the monarch butterfly, for example.  Twice a year, they migrate from between 3,000 and 5,000 miles to get between their summer and winter ‘homes’, with the difference in distance depending on starting and finishing points.  No single butterfly survives to make the entire trip.  Four different generations will be born, breed, hatch, and die before the great, great, grandchildren reach their destinations.  They feed and pollinate along their flight paths as they move.  Between insecticides, human lack of understanding, and loss of habitat, the monarchs are losing the ability to find enough food to keep going.  Our part comes in not understanding that many plants are essential, and spraying to kill anything that is not lawn destroys vital biodiversity.  Milkweed, for example, has been widely eradicated for this reason, and milkweed is what monarchs almost exclusively feed on.  People are being asked to dedicate poor areas of property, fence lines, back corners of yards, or fields not being actively used, to natural regions where they establish plants that are of value to bees, hummingbirds, ladybugs, and butterflies.  It reduces the property owner’s maintenance costs and time, provides critical plants for nature, and can be beautiful.  Many people think such an ignored area will look ratty, unattractive.  However, there are many plants that bloom for most of the summer, are beautiful, and like milkweed, for example, come in a wide range of colors and growing patterns.  Many folks call these areas bee gardens.  Here is one small link to explain this idea, but once you get started looking, you will find hundreds of such sites, and pictures of beautiful, not ratty, bee gardens.  They can vary between ‘left to nature’ and exquisitely fancy.  Please get hooked on this effort and jump right in.

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