Posts Tagged biodiversity

The Green Door

Harbinger of Spring

[Note: Photos in this piece were taken in my yard recently but besides serving as evidence of (mostly) native biodiversity, serve no purpose here other than to help you stay awake.]

Most of us probably have memories of favorite teachers. I know I do. During the acquisition of my last master’s degree some 20+ years ago, I was lucky enough to be exposed to four truly gifted, memorable professors. One in particular blew my mind wide open.

I am at heart a practical soul, grounded in earth and flowers. Never have I had an inclination to study philosophy or religion. Frankly, the books – oh yes, I had tried reading a few – always put me to sleep. That changed when I took the late Kalman Bland’s class, Other Worlds and Human Transformations. We read and discussed Plato’s Republic, learned about Thomas Kuhn and the scientific revolution. We read art criticism and the Book of Job, and much more. Dr. Bland never lectured us. Instead, using the Socratic method, he would ask a question and then expect the class to find an answer as he gently nudged us in the right direction. I loved this approach! With each new reading, he subtly steered us to weave seemingly disparate bits into a whole cloth of wondrous colors and insights. The papers he assigned us to write required some of the deepest thinking I’ve ever done for a class.

I am eternally grateful for Dr. Bland’s challenging class, because without it, I would not have figured out what I have been seeking most of my life: The Green Door.

Thomas Kuhn is an American philosopher known for his study of the so-called scientific revolution. He coined a term we all know – paradigm shift. Kuhn invented the term to describe what happens when there is a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline. As I understand it, paradigm shifts occur when someone re-imagines the fundamentals of their world view, and in so doing, permanently changes how the world is perceived by everyone. For example, when Nicolaus Copernicus created a model of the universe that postulated the Earth moved around the sun, that was a paradigm shift, a fundamental change in how the universe was perceived. No longer was Earth the center of the universe.

The Green Door I imagine is the paradigm shift I believe humanity needs in order to avoid destroying itself by abusing our planet so badly that it can no longer sustain us. Try as I might, I have not stumbled across a fundamental re-visioning of humanity’s relationship to Earth that has the power to electrify human thinking so completely that all are inspired to act to preserve rather than destroy our planet. Yes, many wonderful organizations and people all over the world are fighting to preserve biodiversity in their homelands, protect water and air quality, grow food organically, etc., but they are doing so within an old framework that puts such efforts at a great disadvantage.

In most parts of the world, I believe that humanity views the natural world merely as a commodity to which they assign a monetary value. Consider a phrase beloved by the real estate industry: undeveloped land. Beautiful stands of contiguous native forest, grassland, and even small farms are perceived by the real estate industry only as potential sources of income via “development projects.” Ecological value, much less spiritual value of land — these are not concepts that compute for the real estate industry. I have spent decades wracking my brain, trying to imagine a way to re-wire humanity to view Earth as a partner rather than a mere resource. I have not succeeded. In his book about scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts, Kuhn says such big world-changing notions only come to younger minds, under age 40 or so. That’s my excuse, anyway, for not being able to find a Green Door, a paradigm shift in humanity’s relationship with Earth.

I haven’t lost hope. I know a lot of smart young people are working on pieces of this critical puzzle. I just read last week about a new iron-based catalyst that converts carbon dioxide into jet fuel – no petroleum required!  I will continue to pray that these smart younger folks are close to a paradigm-shifting breakthrough that will manifest a human partnership with Earth that will allow all the world’s inhabitants to flourish for many future generations.

While I keep watch for a paradigm-shifting Green Door, I will continue to do what I can for my corner of the planet. I continue to add new well-adapted native species to my five acres of green chaos. I continue to support conservation-focused nonprofits working hard to preserve rapidly diminishing biodiversity and water and air quality, and I continue to write about my experiences in the hope that sharing what I’ve learned can lead at least a few souls closer to the Green Door of my dreams.

With that in mind, those of you who are members of the North Carolina Botanical Garden should see the spring edition of their magazine, Conservation Gardener, showing up in your mailbox early next month. The issue’s theme: preserving biodiversity. You’ll see a few articles in there that I wrote, including one on enhancing native biodiversity in your home landscape. You’ll also see articles about people and organizations in my area that are finding creative ways to enhance biodiversity on farms and suburban greenways.

And while we all wait for the weather to warm up and dry out, you may want to sign up for some upcoming webinars from the NC Wildlife Federation, including these:

Let’s all keep a sharp lookout for a paradigm-shifting Green Door.

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A Few Updates

A healthy farm in Snow Camp, NC

Greetings, faithful blog followers! I apologize for my lapse in communication. I am busily writing these days for organizations I support. Just published today is a piece I wrote for the blog of the New Hope Audubon Society about a cattle farm in an adjacent county that is being managed to maintain biodiversity. I was lucky enough to tour this farm last month. I found it inspirational on many levels. It was also quite beautiful. If you have the time, please visit the link above and read about the great work done by the farm’s manager, Nick Harper.

In a moment of perhaps excessive enthusiasm, I agreed to write several articles for the spring edition of Conservation Gardener, the magazine of the North Carolina Botanical Garden. That magazine is a benefit of membership, so if you’d like to read it and you aren’t a member, please consider joining. Articles in the upcoming edition will all address various aspects and issues concerning biodiversity, including a piece I’m writing on ways to increase biodiversity in your home landscape — and why that’s a good idea. Those articles are still in process, so I may not be writing here as much as I’d like until I crank out what I’ve promised.

Finally, in a nod to what I hope will be a post-COVID world by late spring of next year, I am considering ways I can share my years of experience with small groups. A younger friend of mine recently pointed out that my greatest asset is my breadth of knowledge about the southeastern Piedmont landscape. I am considering offering small classes to be held on my five acres of green chaos. Topics would reflect the interests of attendees, but I could offer tips on vegetable gardening, how to recognize and enhance microenvironments in a landscape, favorite shrubs, favorite trees, pollinator gardens, plant propagation, native plant identification, invasive species, and so on. If there’s interest, I could also offer tips on writing about the natural world and nature journaling. These classes would be held entirely outdoors.

I’m thinking attendees could compensate me in one of two ways. Either they could pay me whatever fee we settle on, or if attendees are able and willing, I’m toying with offering a class in exchange for a hour or two of weeding time by attendees. Certain parts of my yard are being overwhelmed by invasive, non-native Asian Hawksbeard. My aging joints cannot pull these weeds as fast as they are appearing. I would welcome help in exchange for some teaching time from me.

If you live within an easy drive of the Chapel Hill, NC area and you think you might like to attend a small class, please write me at the e-mail address listed on the About page. If you do so, please mention the topics that would be of most interest to you. If there’s a topic you’re interested in that’s not listed above, please mention it in your e-mail.

I hope to offer a post on the occasion of the imminent winter solstice, but if I don’t make it, please know how much I appreciate you, my blog readers, and I wish you all a very safe and happy holiday season.

One of the ponds on the farm I recently visited.

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