Updated: May 31, 2020
As a landscape architect, I possess a strong tendency to marvel at the wonders of nature. After all, I have dedicated my career to designing spaces for humans and ecological processes to coexist in harmony. However, the more cooped-up and isolated I have become, nature is not only something that inspires me, I NEED it. After two months (or has it been 6 years, what day is it?) into the Covid lock-down, I find myself saying good morning to plants. I replaced a broken pump on a small fountain as an immediate priority, as I had noticed a hummingbird that seems to like to frequent it. I can't disappoint my tiny feathered friend! I have to restrain myself from buying plants every time I go to a store. My adoration of nature has become compulsive. My need to protect it has grown stronger. Nature has become my companion.
Honestly, I am unraveling as much as anyone but nature is saving me. And based on social media posts and news streams, it seems nature, yet again, is saving us all.
Scientist would say I have been become acutely aware of my connection to nature, or biophilia as some would say. Have you noticed the birds are singing louder this spring (and not only because you planted 200 native plants in your yard last fall)? Is it just me or are the flowers brighter and more abundant? Have leaves always rustled in the wind so beautifully? Just in case you have also discovered your tendencies to adore/need nature and want to use fancy scientific terms in your next Zoom meeting, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary: Biophilia is the term coined by the Harvard naturalist Dr. Edward O. Wilson to describe what he saw as humanity's "innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes and to be drawn toward nature, to feel an affinity for it, a love, a craving." — Natalie Angier."
Every time I leave home, I come back with seeds, soil, or plants. It's like I can't help myself. I bring clippers on walks and slyly cut the thick stalks of invasive english ivy (Hedera helix) choking the native PNW big leaf maple trees (Acer macrophyllum) in our local public greenbelts and in my neighbor's yards. Snip, snip ivy. Snip snip. Free the trees, down with ivy! Plant more native plants! Rinse and repeat. Yes, I am losing my mind.
Ok, I promise I am getting to my point...
Here's the deal, if everyone on the face of the earth ran out and bought one native plant and planted it somewhere, anywhere - we would suddenly have 7.8 billion more native plants on the planet. If every time someone went for a walk in their local park or greenbelt and they cut-back just one invasive plant species, overtime our urban condition would shift. Animal species would become healthier, the air would be cleaner, your biophilic cup would runneth over.
And yes, I know what you are thinking, many people do not have access to clean water, shelter or food. I agree that plant buying is likely not a priority or even possible for many, many people and I respect the need to survive above all else. Heck, you may even be thinking, we are in the midst of a pandemic, plants are not a priority. But, fun fact, did you know that Covid-19 originated in bats? Did you know that many zoonotic pandemics can be at least partially, if not fully attributed to a degradation of habitat resulting in animals that are more likely to get sick? This means you, humans, are more likely to get sick without healthy ecosystems which are virtually impossible without plants, especially native plants.
Saving the world, one yard at a time.
Focusing on only the United States, there are estimated to be 95 million single-family homes. If we assume an average lot size of 5,000 sq feet per home with a 50% lot coverage (with 50% of the lot being covered by a home), this equates into 5,452,249 acres of available land! Assuming that at least 50% of this space consists of lawn (2,726,124 acres total, 1250 sf per yard), converting only 10% (125 sf per yard) of lawns into a native plant gardens, the US could increase its biodiversity plant community footprint by 272,612 acres! For reference, this is more than 2x the acreage of Maui, Hawaii or 6x the size of Washington DC. Reducing your lawn by 10% is really only a tiny space, 11.3 feet x 11.3 feet. You won't even miss it, but collectively a tiny native plant garden could make a huge impact!
So what are you waiting for? Grab your shovel and go start converting a tiny percentage of your lawn into a native plant garden. Tell your kids to google the closest native plant nursery and ask for planting recommendations. Before you know it, native animals and pollinators will be frequenting your yard and you will single-handily save the world from climate change and pandemics! Heck, you might even save an endangered species or two!
Other than digging up your lawn and googling local plant nurseries, how do you get started? At BioDesign Studio, we do not specialize in comprehensive residential design. However, we can help you create your native plant garden with easy DIY instructions and planting suggestions based on your local flora and fauna. And here's where we have really lost our minds. We are so incredibly dedicated to increasing plant diversity throughout the United States, we will email you our "reWild125" design instructions and a planting list, for free. Yep, for free. The only thing we ask is that you post a photo to Instagram with the hashtag #reWild125 so we can try to tabulate our collective success at increasing global biodiversity, one yard at a time.
Now go forth and change the world. You can do it and we will help.