These days a lot of the news you hear and see is regarding climate change, invasive species, food shortages, the pandemic, mismanaged agricultural practices…. basically the negative aspects of most topics. It can be depressing, draining and overwhelming, leaving people in emotional turmoil causing poorly though out reactive responses. Worse still, it can leave people to feel helpless, frozen, that there is nothing they can do to solve these world crisis so therefore they retreat into themselves and the small part of the world they exist in to ignore or block it all out. In doing so they do nothing to work towards solutions.
I personally, do not like to be barraged by constant negativity. I believe we need to turn things around by fixating more on the positives, no matter how big or how small. One person for the most part, cannot save an entire world. If each individual does one small thing however, it can have great impact. There is a lot of grey area. These changes are somewhat naturally cyclical after all. Let survival of the fittest prevail. Mother Nature will do a reset and rebalance things. Where does one draw the line on invasives anyway as it is in part somewhat subjective? The bottom line I think, is that every species core mantra is survival. Every living organism no matter how basic or advanced, just wants to live. Punishing our own species just because we too, wish to continue our existence, does not make sense. From the beginning humans have manipulated their environment to ensure their survival. I think this is normal and to be expected. Maybe humans are not capable of living as a species indefinitely, but it should not keep us from trying. I do believe we, as a species, as nations, and as individuals, need to keep looking at better ways to survive long term. This means learning from past mistakes and realizing new ones will also be made. Have an open mind. Realize what is seen as right today may not be tomorrow but improvement overall is what we are aiming for. Acknowledging each step forward, again regardless of big or small, whether a government puts new legislation in for alternative energy, a business reduces its waste output, or an individual puts up a bat house, is a start to perpetuating more positive action.
I am not here to shame people, or tout myself as knowing the right methods to get humanity and our world to where it should be, but I do believe leading by example, sharing my knowledge and encouraging people to do something, anything, no matter how small is a step in the right direction. This is why I believe in native plants as a piece of the bigger solution:
*Almost everyone can plant/maintain one native plant. It doesn’t take much as far as resources go (time, money, space – they can even be grown in a container). One small action like this however, multiplied by our population can have huge impact!
*Native plants have adapted and are suited to their environments. One can find a native for every soil, moisture and light condition that will thrive. Many non-natives cannot survive or do well in these local conditions and cannot be expected to adapt so quickly.
*Native plants generally consume less resources. Quite often they get by on less water and reduced nutrients because in the wild that is what’s available. Many times fertilizing or watering upland natives will actually result in overdoses causing these plants to wither.
*Many of these species are edible and/or have medicinal and other properties. This means they are multi-purposeful. Try looking at natives with the qualities you are looking for before seeking an alternate.
*Many of our local plants have developed unique and specialized relationships with other organisms. Other plants could not substitute for these foods, habitats, etc. Though it is difficult to say the importance of one species and how detrimental its loss would be to the grand scheme, biodiversity is a proven positive player on the world scale. Why risk it?
*Many native plants are more efficient in converting biomass. Biomass = carbon sequestration which stabilizes our atmosphere, preventing increasing temperatures. Increasing temperatures mean higher water levels and more extreme weather conditions, so for humans and most other organisms on earth, slowing or preventing this should be seen as a positive.
*Native plants have their own natural balancers in place from pests, disease and foragers to other community plants and beneficials. Non-natives do not have these checks and balances in place, so the ones that can thrive generally do so in an out of control fashion, becoming invasive in a short period of time, even if they were not so in their homeland.
*Plants in general are a great way for children and adults alike to connect with food and ecology. By using local plants, this connectivity is even more apparent and people can appreciate the plants in the natural wild environments as well as on a cultivated level.
*Once established many native plants are used to competing for survival and so will out compete plants deemed invasive.
*Did I mention natives have evolved here? That means many of them have developed protection against deer and other wild animals that may find your non-natives a tasty buffet.
*In our climate our native plants have also adapted to the cold of winter and fluctuating weather extremes. Many of our plants actually need a sustained cold period or cold/warm periods of chinooks in order to germinate or grow effectively when spring arrives. You generally don’t need to baby established plants.
*Native plants quite often act as great filters for air, soil and water contaminants. Oil and gas reclamation, water treatment and air quality are some of the commercial uses which can also be applied to the homeowner.
*This may just be for your own well being and peace of mind, but there are a multitude of colours, textures, seasonal availability and unique attributes in native plants that should encourage one to consider using them in commercial and residential landscaping projects. Even if you just have a balcony, there are many that will happily grow in a pot.
*Financially if you have a project that is to incorporate native plants, there are currently many grants in place through local, provincial and federal governments, organizations and businesses to enable you to execute bigger plans without higher cost. Wetland areas, pollinator gardens, community gardens and wildlife habitats are all possibilities if you do wish to do more.
Hopefully this enables you to see that there are many benefits to native plants here in Alberta as well as wherever you are around the globe, and that they can have a big impact on the world scene as far as climate change and other issues go. It also means that here is something we can all do that isn’t overwhelming. Just one native plant is all it takes to begin change.