What Would the Butterfly Say?

The year 2013 was the year of the fox, according to a recent magazine, because of the hit song “What Does the Fox Say?”  For 2014, by process of a hip little tree of elimination, this writer lands on the leopard. Not buying this lame, and redundant, suggestion. Supposedly a fashion trend this year, but leopard print is always a fashion trend in some populations.   

Then I read the latest newsletter from my town’s garden club. The April meeting features Going Organic at Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens.  The executive director of the gardens in Boothbay, Maine, is talking about the results of adopting organic practices:  The plants are healthier, pollinators more diverse, visitors happier, and costs have remained the same or decreased. Retire the myth that organic has to be much more expensive.

The next article that caught my eye was about Monarch butterflies.  Their numbers are in serious decline; an independent study has linked the Monarchs’ decline to the use of Monsanto’s Roundup.  Roundup kills milkweed, the butterflies’ primary food source.  Losing these butterflies means wiping out insects, birds, and small mammals that are all part of this food chain.

Maybe 2014 needs to be the year of the butterfly. This article pushed an old hot button for me. Round Up is dangerous to our ecosystem and the creatures who live in it; we’ve known this for some time. We knew it when I was studying for my horticulture degree, and need I say, that was a while ago. Scientists have demonstrated that the glyphosate in Round Up can cause cell death in amounts 200 times below agriculture usage. This same chemical has also been cited as responsible for the rise of gluten intolerance and celiac disease. I have several friends and relatives who suffer from this condition; one almost died before the condition was identified. I surmise the problems that this dangerous herbicide causes to living creatures is limited only by the amount of studies undertaken to link damage to source.  

I’ve seen good friends spraying Round Up around the yard to kill the weeds—no face mask, a dog playing nearby. I’ve seen neighbors at the beach drench their stone driveways and stone “yards,” with this stuff–there is an Ultra Max version now–no face mask, dog nearby. I watch as we both stand there, on different sides of the street, at sea level, both of us, and our dogs, as this neighbor basically sprays this killer chemical mix directly into the water table.

When will we rethink leafy “pest” management? Rethink chemical herbicides across the board. There is nothing natural about monoculture. There is nothing natural about a yard that is just grass, about a gravel driveway that has no plants peeking through, about a sterile brick walk.  Some British home owners seem to get this more than we do. Think British cottage garden–over grown, diverse, wild even, but happy. These gardens read happy. Think of our American suburban clipped and manicured lawns and gardens. These landscapes read sterile, cold, and racist. Only this type of grass blade or this particular bush is permitted; everything else is not welcome, and will be killed.     

These “unwelcome” plants are not the only ones being destroyed. Not to mention that one creature’s “unwelcome” leafy volunteer is another creature’s “welcome,” or as we’ve seen with the Monarchs, critical, volunteer. The destruction wrought by this rampant use of herbicides goes way beyond, say, that single dandelion plant—with the bright yellow flower and interesting leaves that also make a snappy salad. This widespread destruction seeps into all areas of our food chain and ecosystem. We are all connected.  

Would it kill us to allow a little more natural diversity in our yards? No. But it may kill us if we don’t.  

What would the butterfly say? Stop. Please.

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