We should give great care to nature, as it has nurtured us
On a blue-sky day at Kissimmee Prairie, I walk a vast landscape of saw palmetto and tawny grasses dotted with colorful wildflowers. Islands of sabal palms offer relief to flat vistas. Eastern meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds provide background music.
For magnificent places like this, we have to thank those who set aside lands to conserve plants and wildlife — and give us endless hours of delight. Here in Sarasota County, we have benefited from the generosity of the Jelks family. The Florida scrub jay would be extinct were it not for Oscar Scherer State Park, Lyonnia Preserve and other protected places where the birds can thrive in their original habitats lovingly maintained by land managers.
Selby Gardens has an active plant preservation program. In the center of the state, Bok Tower and Archbold Research Station cultivate and plant out rare scrub plants. The Green Swamp and, closer to home, Carlton Reserve, ensure our water supply.
In the 1770s, William Bartram delighted in the endless array of plants and animals he encountered on his four-year trek through the Southeast. Everything in nature was of equal importance to him. In our world, nature is a top-down construct. We bulldoze vast swaths of land for development, destroying thousands of plants and animals in the process. Renowned biologist Edward O Wilson once said, “When we cut down trees, there are invisible reverberations under our feet. You are not just removing trees and a few birds fluttering around the canopy; you are drastically imperiling a vast array of species within a few square miles of you.” We relegate animals to the edges of our turf — parking lots, malls and landfills.
We humans are overrunning the place — 7 billion of us, and increasing daily. The 8 billion other species are being squeezed out or off the planet. Extinctions are at 10 times the normal rate.
The good news is that at the grassroots level we are seeing a growing awareness of the plight of the planet and taking action. Organizations and individuals are coming together to protest against profligate appropriation of protected wetlands, to preserve parks in their original states, and to educate people of all ages on water conservation and planting native. They work to put a stop to “Big Oil” and the mining and fracking that are so destructive to the Earth. As always, they try to educate those in charge who have turned a deaf ear to what is increasingly a dire situation.
We humans have been well cared for. We have been sheltered, fed and healed by Creation. I sit on what once was a maple tree and eat at an oak table. My refrigerator is filled with “fruits” of the land. As people always have, I use medicinal plants for healing: arnica montana for pain relief; tea tree oil as an antiseptic; calendula for scrapes and bites. Now we are called upon to be caregivers. The fate of the planet is in our hands.