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Gardening and the Environment

There’s an old Middle Eastern story about a little bird who, when she heard the sky was falling, lay down on the trail on her back with her feet up.  A horseman came thundering down the trail, stopped, and asked what the little bird was doing.  “I heard the sky is falling and I’m helping to hold it up.”  “What can a little bird like you do?” the horseman replied.  The bird replied, “I do what I can!”

The majority of scientists believe we are in a global crisis, the earth is getting warmer and we are polluting our world more and more.  Weather patterns are changing; there is more flooding, more fires, and our oceans are full of plastic.  This year we had a record heatwave.

No, the sky is not falling, yet, and while the problems are immense, each of us, like the little bird, can do something to help mitigate the crisis.  We can do what we can.  If each of us used one fewer plastic bag a week in the Edmonton area, 52 million fewer bags a year would be used, many of which would have gone into the landfill.  And why stop at one a week?

A variety of articles on the web indicate that Canadians throw away between 40 to 63% of the food they buy, at a yearly cost of between $1100 to $1766 per household. Not only is the cost high, but the estimated food waste also creates 56.6 million tons of carbon dioxide.  Food in landfills also creates methane gas, a gas that is 25 times more damaging to the environment than CO2.  We buy too much and throw the excess out.  Why throw out food past its best before date, when ‘best before’ refers only to a possible deterioration of taste.

Gardening reduces waste.  Food fresh from your garden not only tastes better, but we are also less likely to waste it.  We use the odd sizes of vegetables never seen in the grocery store.  And, gardening reduces carbon emissions by reducing the costs of growing, processing, transporting, and selling commercial food.

A study in the Journal Science, reported in CBC’s What on Earth, said the best way to fight climate change is to plant at least a trillion trees worldwide.  Some countries have undertaken ambitious goals. For example, Ethiopia plans to plant four billion by October.  Here in St. Albert, you can plant a tree in your yard or come out in September to help plant up to 500 trees with the St. Albert Rotary Club in the Rotary Park.

Have you wondered why there are far fewer songbirds today?  Could it be because of the use of herbicides and pesticides by not only farmers but by city folk on their lawns.  We also have a shortage of pollinators and many bees and other pollinators are killed by the use of systemic pesticides.

Provide a refuge for birds in your own yard.  Avoid chemicals on your lawn and other parts of your yard.  Provide food for the birds by planting trees and shrubs that provide berries and insects for the birds.  And put up one or more birdhouses.  One amazing wren set up housekeeping in one of our birdhouses.  It had a twig that was three times as long as the diameter of the hole into the birdhouse.  Three times it tried to put it indirectly, but the hole was too small.  Then it twisted its head and poked it in lengthwise.  Smart bird!  And don’t forget the birdbath.  Water attracts birds, to drink and bathe.  Remember to keep the water clean, changing it frequently.

Our environment is a legacy to be passed on to our children and our grandchildren and their children.  Let’s hope they will thank us and not hate us for what we have done for the environment.  And so, be like the little bird, do what you can.

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