Caring for Garden Earth
Yes, it’s true: I am an ornamental gardener. I grow plants to look at, that make me happy to see as they grow and bloom and transform through the seasons. I view the world that I walk through and visit, as a never ending series of garden rooms. For a gardener, it is natural to have this viewpoint.
However, once in a while, I think it is helpful for all of us to think like gardeners, especially those of us building and leading sustainability work. Why talk about this now? Because now, this summer of 2021, is a painfully wonderful time to observe that how we tend part of the global garden impacts what happens to other parts of the global garden.
If you consider gardening as manipulating plants (and the rest of the natural world), then all of the world is now a garden. There is, for better or worse (yikes!), no significant part of the biosphere which we humans inhabit, that has not been impacted by the activities of humans. Yes, even natural “wilderness” areas and reserves are impacted, at least indirectly, by the behavior of humans.
This month, I am reacting to the terrible air that I and my neighbors east of the west coast of the U.S. have been trying to avoid for far too many days already this fire season. That is another simple observation to share: have you noticed we now have a fifth season that overlaps summer and fall, a fire smoke season?
Many if not most of these large out-of-control fires that damage human well-being, let alone the rest of the web of life, are due to poor gardening behavior. Collectively, we have failed at managing power lines, recreation, building construction and forests to reduce fuel ignition causing fires.
For years in the U.S., we haven’t allowed natural fire cycles to occur, because we were afraid fires might threaten the settlements we built near concentrations of flammable plants. Now, we are unnecessarily accelerating the heating of the planet, which is causing more lightening and wind and dryer plant communities: creating conditions for more and more catastrophic fire events.
Seeing the earth as one large burnable garden, helps us see how important it is for us to better tend the plants that we live near and make a world that allows them and the moving beings within them, to live out their lives, for ecosystems to function with less avoidable disruption. Trees, shrubs, grasses, microorganisms, fish, birds, insects and animals cannot act to avoid catastrophic disruption: only humans can. All of these other forms of life cannot communicate and coordinate with each other directly across continents and oceans: only humans can.
The web of life doesn’t garden itself, ecologies evolve in response to changing climatic conditions (among other things). Only humans can directly and indirectly knowingly impact these conditions. We are doing poorly with this capability. We are unnecessarily threatening our own existence and taking down the rest of the web of life with us.
We know how to do better. Therefore, our poor gardening behavior has reached the level of ethical consideration. We are acting unethically and, if you believe in preserving life, we are wrong in our actions.
We need to act as if Life matters. Sustainability is not a distant dream of an ideal world, it is the path toward our own survival. It is something we are doing now! We all need to accelerate the act of becoming much better gardeners of Garden Earth.
How we produce and consume through business matters to make a more sustainable world.