Monday, January 21, 2008

Yard Redemption - Maybe Not

Can a yard, a city lot in small town America no less, be redeemed? Is it right to speak of saving, delivering, restoring land? I'd like to continue to explore those questions.

Something special has been lost. That much is clear from the accounts of early Euro-American settlers of Michigan in the previous two posts. The landscape today is picturesque, pastoral. But it is tamed, simplified, and less varied.

Restoration efforts on public and private land are making strides to preserve remaining pieces of savanna on the scale of tens or even hundreds of acres. But the miles of unbroken functioning ecological communities have been altered; there is no turning back the clock, at least not by human hands. And in that sense what has been lost is truly lost. When we preserve a remaining bit of savanna, we preserve not just many dozens of kinds of grasses and wildflowers, insects, birds, and other critters. We likely are preserving hundreds, thousands, millions of fungi and bacteria that make up that system. Planting a few plants back into a yard will not bring back all the insects, bacteria, and fungi that interacted to make the savanna truly healthy.

Restoration always takes second fiddle to preservation.

Does this mean that a yard cannot be redeemed? No. The damage cannot be fully undone - but it can be healed, taken a significant way toward being undone.

In my next post: why I am hopeful.

No comments: