Recently, the issue of the cosmetic use of pesticides on home lawns and in backyard gardens has become one of considerable import. Cities and towns across the country have moved to ban or severely restrict their use, bowing to the pressure from environmentalists and people concerned with questions of health. Chemical companies have responded predictably, arguing that there is no solid scientific information to implicate these substances, provided that they are "used according to directions." People,
myself included, come down on one side or the other, depending on their range of understanding of the issue, or according to their personal, often emotional, reactions.
Carla and I have gardened organically for more than thirty years now. In that time we have found ways to have very productive vegetable and flower gardens that, at the same time, are fee from any chemical residues that we can control. Our lawns are, admittedly, rather colourfully dotted with dandelions and other "weeds" at certain times of the summer and are otherwise imperfect in the eyes of those who define "good" lawns as those consisting of a single grass variety, manicured to regulation length. We have made choices over the years to keep our own micro-environment as free as we can of any of these chemical additives, and we intend to keep on doing so.
What is it in modern humans that we have such a hard time in seeing beauty or harmony in a wild field? We encounter untamed growth and we immediately want to impose some order on it. "What a shame, " we think as we realize that the field is reverting to the wild and that, left alone for long enough, will eventually become forest again. A tree falls in the forest and we regret the waste of the wood. Many people still think of marshes and swamps as "waste land" and wonder how it may be drained and turned into something profitable. In short, nature, left to itself, is little more than an amalgam of lost or squandered opportunities.
That attitude is most unfortunate. In the last fifty years alone it has led to a devastation of the natural world that will take millennia to repair, should it ever get the chance. Somehow the idea that we should be
wise custodians of the only world we have, and the only one we can leave to our children and theirs, has been sacrificed to the voracious appetites of modern consumer society. As one notable western Premier observed recently, "Why should we be worried about what happens forty years from now? We'll all be dead by then, anyway." Either he knows something that the rest of us don't, or he is making the assumption that nothing matters after he has departed - a touch of egoism that seems particularly sad to those of us who do happen to have grandchildren.
I have argued for years that we are making decisions now that affect the future. At times I feel that we are no further ahead than we were when it first became more or less acceptable to talk about environmental issues without being completely dismissed as a crank or crackpot. At other times we seem to be beginning to get things right - with Kyoto, with the passing of Endangered Species legislation, with tightening regulations and restrictions of hazardous substances. With that trend to encourage us, I am all the more puzzled when I walk by a front lawn with little signs sticking up all over it warning everyone to stay off because it has just been sprayed with another of these supposedly harmless but toxic substances - all in the name of a concept of perfection that seems more and more meaningless every year.
This article appeared in the Campbellton Tribune, in Mike's "Grains of Sand" column.
It is reproduced with Mike's permission.