May 1, 2013

Where are the butterflies?

No, its not just the sound that disturbs me, rather, the reasons for the sound that disturb me perpetually. Its like a stain that simply won't fade into oblivion. It has been going on for days together now, and once it starts mid-day, it lingers well after the sun fades away. That is what Spring has brought forth in tandem with the sporadic spills; there is much life and energy in the air, and in the moist earth; much more than what we can take. Is that why we try to thwart their energies, and nip those buds right when they lift their heads up?

Weeds, grass heads that refuse to stay put. Well, why should they? They were created with a purpose, and grow they must. But how could they when toxic weed killers are sprinkled on them with robotic accuracy and when the gas guzzling lawn mowers ply on them, day after day? I love to look at well mowed lawns, those sprawling green acres that soothe the eye, but on weighing the opportunity costs for a sickened planet, and on comprehending the ill- effects of such superficial degrees of sophistication, of being carried away by what is seen on the outside, at times, they become sore spots. For the eyes that take me beyond sights and sounds.

Lawn mowers, weed whackers, leaf blowers, and edgers are mostly two stroke engines, notorious for their energy expenditure. Every other day, during the most beautiful Spring and Summer, I see one of these put to use right in front of my eyes. That sound stays on, making itself heard above all domestic din, reminding me of the peril which is just around the corner.

The turf grass has shallow roots, which forms a cluster at the very topsoil, preventing rain water from seeping to the underground, rather, they are redirected artificially. On the other hand, many native varieties of prairie grasses have deep roots that run very deep, they work hand in hand with the rains; helping her carry those innumerable water channels back to the depths of a thirsty Earth.

American culture is obsessed with lawns, to say the least. This lawn culture is meaningless, except that it looks neat, and orderly, but if you look closer, you can see the cacophony of a faulty system. Lawns are rightly called biological deserts, they are naive as ecosystems, sustaining little life along. Look at the folly of the system! The grass is mowed, all the clippings are removed, and then, to retain the fertility of the soil, for the grass to stay green and healthy, tons of chemicals are added to it, in stringently adhered to periodicity.  And then, not a single weed head should sprout; so spray the weed killers, the most infamous being Monsanto's Roundup, which is now suspected to lead to increased occurrence of cancers and diseases like Parkinson's. Huffinton Post recently carried a story about it. Read it here. Alarming indeed. Won't the weed killers affect the good crop, then? That has been given much thought; that's how the genetically modified crops come to the picture; they are made to resist the chemicals sprayed on them. How thoughtful!

Lawns in America put together is three times the size of the garden state of New Jersey. Imagine the amount of water needed to irrigate this vast stretch of land! As such, we are dependent on our depleting resources for sustenance, but how can we continue to be myopic about these bad practices?

My mom arrived from India couple of weeks ago, and she was perplexed to observe the sheer paucity of butterflies and bees in our backyard, even when there was green as far as the eye could see!



smitha said...

Hi Minu,

Thought i will post a comment on this. The place where i saw the maximum nos and species of butterlflies was in University of Kerala , senate hall campus, acres of land and full of trees but most importantly full of Weeds and grasses (Pocha). No one tends the land over there so everything grows wild and u get to see thousands and thousands of butterflies( not an exxageration :) ). the only time time they disappear is on national NCC day, guess why? because Do-gooders in the form of young NCC cadets descends on the campus once every year and cuts and clears the bushes and weeds :) but within a month's time the weeds and grasses are back and so are the butterflies,dragonflies et al. So maybe to see them every garden needs to have patch of land where nature is allowed to grow wild and then u get to see the butterflies. Cheers, Smitha

Minu Mathew said...

Thank you Smitha for your valuable comment. Yes, every house, every garden should have a wild patch, or even many patches. Back home, I remember, how often and how many varieties of flies and bees we spotted when nature was not tended to great degrees of sophistication. Left to her own element, she brings forth the best.

Allan Stellar said...

I agree with you. Too much time, effort and money goes into something purely ornamental that you can't eat. Love the sentiment.

Minu Mathew said...

Thanks Allan Stellar. Whenever I travel in the US, I look at the unending stretches of land gone waste! It only makes me feel sad. I checked out your blog as well. I am very much in line with your thoughts. Great blog you have!

Post a Comment

I would love to know what you felt about this post. Please select the name/url option from below. If you have a URL, please enter as well. But with just the name also it works. You may use others like Google account to sign in, but, name is a sure bet.