What would Mother Earth say?

I recently woke up to the howls of coyotes singing to the stars. The next morning, several white-tailed deer welcomed me to my front door as I drank my morning tea. At lunch I was greeted by a black and white checkered hawk with red shoulders perching on a large white pine in my yard. The hawk stared at me wondering if it was free sushi day at my pond. Not today, Mr. Hawk.

These are just a few of my neighbors that I have come to know and love, and just a few that I would tragically mourn if they were to disappear from my neighborhood, from their home. As the 54th Earth Day approaches this year, I have come to realize that the best way we can protect our planet, and by extension, ourselves, is by doing nothing.

By this I mean that the best approach is to get out of the way of nature. Most people have no intention of harming the living earth when they return from the big box store (or their lawn company), armed to the teeth with weapons that will “beautify” their lawn and kill moles, voles and beavers. But when you do, the result is often the killing of the very thing that allows our natural world to thrive.

Many of us support our national parks and go there to reconnect with nature. But few of us realize that conserved public lands make up only 12% of the available land in this country. Everything else, our gardens, the black car parks and the urban areas make up the remaining 88%. We have a problem. We are losing the very things on this planet that give us nature’s bounty: our songbirds (decreased by 80%), our butterflies (decreased by 90%), and our tree canopy (loss of 300 million hectares).

What is clear to me is that the responsibility for healing our world is not just about legislation, signing petitions or bumper stickers. But more about what we do in our backyard. Literal. All told, there are approximately 40 million acres of lawn in the United States. If we were to think of our gardens as our own personal piece of a national park, it would be the largest park in the country. And the future of our living world could depend on whether we choose to use your land to nurture nature or destroy it.

Many people see a weed-free garden as a sign of middle-class success. But nature sees it very differently. A lawn with exotic grasses is a sterile place that crowds out native plants, depriving insects and pollinators of a place to thrive, directly impacting the health of birds, butterflies, bees and all those critters higher up the food chain that depend on them are for food. Standard lawn products contain a significant amount of pesticides that kill more than just clover and dandelions. Of the 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 have been linked to cancer, 13 to birth defects, 21 to reproductive effects, 26 to liver or kidney damage, 15 to neurotoxicity and 11 to disruption of the endocrine system. (EPA, beyond pesticides) These same pesticides are found in groundwater, leach into drinking water sources, many are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, and are poisonous to bees and birds.

Imagine if your garden, instead of being a grazier, was a sanctuary for nature instead of a graveyard?

Tree canopy is also an important way to help us heal the earth. According to the US Forest Service, trees provide Americans with $85 billion in services each year through photosynthesis, soil formation, nutrient and water cycling, and as habitat and food for wildlife. Hendersonville has been designated a Tree City USA, but the City Council just decided that the Tree Board can no longer intervene if a developer’s actions have a dramatic impact on tree cover. Our local Chamber of Commerce was clamoring for this result. Will the House pay for the cleanup/prevention of major flooding due to tree loss, cleaning up our rivers when hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage leak into our waterways due to buffer loss? Of course not. We’ll.

Without a strong tree ordinance and now a bare tree shelf, and with a canopy up to 34%, this designation is no longer relevant. Do you want the City of Hendersonville to make Hendersonville a tree city again? Contact them at [email protected].

More: Weintraub: It’s not too late to change the path we’re on

More: Weintraub: Protect our mountains, our home

David Weintraub is a cultural preservationist, filmmaker, and local environmental agitator who directs the Center for Cultural Preservation. Contact him at SaveCulture.org or (828) 692-8062.