Living more “sustainably” has become a common phrase. I’m not sure whether everyone knows what they are talking about when they use that phrase, so let’s look at how the dictionary defines the term sustainable:
- Able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
- Able to be upheld or defended
- Relating to, or being of method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
- Able to last or continue for a long time
How can we live more sustainably since that surely should be our goal? We can use resources so that “the resource is not depleted or damaged.” As it applies to our landscaping or “gardening,” most of us make a conscious effort not to deplete or damage resources such as water, soil, or the environment as a whole. Many of us use native plants extensively and avoid using pesticides to accomplish this goal of sustainability.
We should also take into consideration the harm that can result from depleting the genetic resources that are encoded in the plants we put into our landscapes. An alarming trend has been underway in the agricultural and horticultural trades for decades – decreasing the genetic diversity of food crops as well as landscaping plants. Genetic diversity is important for many reasons, including the species’ ability to withstand environmental changes and respond to disease and infestations.
Genetic manipulations, or even the discovery of new plant selections, may result in more visually appealing flowers and plants. Marketing these plants, as well as those with greater resistance to a selected pest or disease, helps keep the horticultural and agricultural trades flush. These plants are often more appealing to landowners, especially gardeners searching for more spectacular blooms and foliage coloration or easier maintenance. Ecologists, however, are finding that these plants may not be as recognizable to the pollinators with which they have developed a specialized relationship. This concern has led Wild Ones to emphasize the use of “straight species” rather than cultivars or “nativars.” (see, for example, http://www.wildones.org/about-us-2/wild-ones-position-statements/)
Our July 24 speaker, Janisse Ray, has spent a lot of time researching this subject of sustainability and genetic diversity which she eloquently describes in her book “The Seed Underground.” She represents an important union between environmentalists and gardeners – that we shouldn’t rely on the natural areas to maintain genetic diversity and that we can all do more to live more “sustainably.”
I hope to see you there. (To sign up, please go to this page)