Friday, June 3, 2011

Passalong your Passion for the Planet - World Environment Day is June 5th

June 5th is World Environment Day (WED), a program established by the United Nations in 1972 to stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and encourage political attention and action.

In honor of World Environment Day, I'd like to share this post which I wrote in 2010 that was recently published on Jeff Corwin's Citizen blog entitled Passalong Your Passion for the Planet.

If you are from the south, or if you know someone who is a dedicated gardener, you have probably heard the phrase “passalong plants”.

This phrase describes the point in most gardeners’ lives when their hobby quietly changes from a pastime to a passion. When that happens, they want to share their joy. 

They give flowers to friends. They share homegrown produce and herbs with neighbors. They even begin collecting seeds and rooting their cuttings so they can encourage new gardeners. They’ve discovered the deep wonder of working the earth and they want to share it. And from the process, multitudes of new gardeners have been encouraged to get outside and to enjoy the pleasures of the earth.

Steve Bender and Felder Rushing explain this gardening custom is their book, Passalong Plants (© 2002, University of North Carolina Press). “The experience of husbanding a flower through sowing, germination, growth, and blossoming is so spiritually rewarding that it engenders a sort of botanical evangelism in its participants,” Bender and Rushing explain. “It simply reflects the belief that people don’t own the wonders of nature, they just take care of them for awhile. What brings joy to one should bring joy to all.” 

These words seem to exemplify the fact that gardeners don’t just passalong their plants. They passalong their passion. And as nature lovers, we should all take heed of those words. What brings joy to us can bring joy to others. We just need to quit being shy about passing along our passion. 

As naturalists, scientists, nature writers and photographers, we already understand the wonders of wildlife and the excitement of the environment, but there are many people out there who do not. And although we may be tempted to try to persuade them with lectures about environmental responsibility and the extinction of species, we will probably make a much bigger impact if we share our passion. 

We need to become PR people for the planet and evangelists for the earth. We need to get others to feel what we feel and to see what we see. We don’t need to explain the details of the whys and the hows of the natural world as much as we need to share the wonders. 

Amateur nature photographers capture incredible images of miraculous events that are occurring all around them but their photos sit unshared on their computers. Writers pen inspirational thoughts about the joys and miracles of their experiences in nature and then hide their journals away in desk drawers. Scientists and naturalists make new discoveries every day that they share with their colleagues but keep quiet about when in the company of family and friends. 

But now is not the time to be shy. The environment is suffering and we hold the key to its survival. The key is our passion. 

Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Peace Day encouraged humankind to “renew and strengthen their covenant between human beings and the environment.” The United Nations declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. But environmental advocates such as Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), feel that we will make little progress unless we can get people outside to experience nature. 

“Human beings are becoming increasingly cut off from nature,” Djorghlaf said. “Without contact [with nature], people are not aware that their patterns of consumption lead to habitat loss, pollution and other drivers of biodiversity loss.”

And that’s where we come in. All of us feel a spark of excitement when we make a new discovery in nature. And we need to share that spark….share that joy….share that discovery. 

Whether you share your enthusiasm for nature quietly with your closest friends and family, on-line with blogs and wildlife forums or at weekly meetings of your favorite social get-togethers, don’t be reluctant to share. Teaching others about your passion for the planet can be a valuable gift for both them and the environment. 

Don’t ever feel like your photos are not good enough or your blog posts aren’t important. If you were excited by something in nature, than share that excitement. Passalong your passion for the planet so that we can all make sure we have a healthy planet to continue to passalong. 

“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We understand only what we are taught.” - Baba Dioum, Senegalese Poet

It's your planet. Don't blow it.

Ahhh. Springtime. You wake up with the light streaming through the window and the birds tweeting and twittering in the trees, thinking of all of the great things ahead of you for the weekend. And suddenly, your reverie is broken by the sound of a roaring leaf blower.

I'll never quite understand the appeal of these loud, debris-stirring devices. Gardening, to me, is a peaceful experience. My garden is where I do a lot of thinking and connecting with nature. And I can't hear nature talk to me if the growl of a leaf blower is roaring in the neighborhood. Plus, using a good old fashioned broom is a good way to burn some calories.

And leaf blowers can also be bad for the environment. A post on The Daily Green lists these 4 Reasons Not to Use a Leaf Blower:

 Why are gas leaf blowers so offensive? 

1. They pollute the air. 
A single gas-powered leaf blower can emit as much pollution in a year as 80 cars

2. They're noisy.  
A normal decibel level, considered acceptable in residential areas, is about 60 decibels (60dB). Every increase in decibels means noise that is 10 times louder. Leaf-blowers usually generate about 70-75 dB. According to the U.S. EPA this level of noise actually degrades quality of life by interfering with communication and sleep, leads to reduced accuracy of work and increased levels of aggravation, which can linger hours after exposure. 

3. They worsen allergies and asthma and irritate the lungs.
Because they operate at such high velocities, leaf blowers stir up the mold, allergens, and dust particles that otherwise have been tamped down with rain and decomposition. 

4. They waste gas
Rakes and even electric-lawn blowers offer a petroleum-free alternative.

But there is a fifth very big way that leaf blowers can be bad for the planet.

When used incorrectly, leaf blowers can help to cause polluted waterways. Why? Because if you blow your grass clippings and leaves into the street, rather than back into your yard, the next rain is going to wash them into the stormdrains whihc lead to our waterways. Once there, the nutrients in the grass, even if you don't use chemical fertilizers, can cause algae blooms which can kill plants and desirable animal life.

This document, entitled "Improper Mowing of Lawns Can Impact Water Quality" on the Virginia Cooperative Extension website describes this process:

Cutting turf and impacting water quality sound like completely unrelated topics. However, the improper handling of clippings is a very important way in which nutrients are inadvertently introduced into our water sources. What is the form of the nutrient? Well, it is not a standard chemical fertilizer, but for all intents and purposes it is ‘slow release fertilizer’: it’s your clippings. The leaf blades and stems that are discharged by your mower are comprised of all the nutrients required for plant growth and development. In general, your lawn clippings contain around 4% nitrogen, 0.5 to 1% phosphorus, and 1 to 2 % potassium by weight. And it is the nitrogen and phosphorus that are major concerns for water quality as they both can incite eutrophication of water sources. Eutrophication occurs when nutrient levels in the water become so large that prolific algal blooms occur; these algal blooms consume most of the oxygen in the water and other desirable plant and animal life dies. So, you now see the link between lawn clippings and eutrophication. But let me defend my turf… pun intended! The reason clippings can contribute to eutrophication is us, not the turfgrass. When you make those first few passes with the mower along the street, do you think to throw the clippings back into the lawn, or, as many seem to do, into the street? Or worse still, have you ever seen folks take their leaf blowers and blow piles of clippings into the street in order to clear their sidewalks, driveways, or lawns? The next time it rains, where is all this slow-release fertilizer headed? Straight to the nearest storm drain and eventually to a local water source. Lawn clippings on hardscapes ultimately end up in our water sources. Protect water quality by ensuring that clippings remain in your turf. Fortunately, the solution to this problem is pretty simple. Put the clippings to work for you by returning them to the lawn.               Read full document here.

So pick up a broom and sweep your clippings back into your lawn or add them to your compost. Remember, It's Your Planet. Don't Blow It!

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