20 Aug 2014
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Letter to the Editor: Earth Day Food For Thought

How people treat their lawns, shrubs, flowers and trees has a profound impact on the environment. Ideas to consider on Earth Day.

Letter to the Editor: Earth Day Food For Thought Letter to the Editor: Earth Day Food For Thought

Dear West Hollywood Citizens

RIGHT NOW birds are nesting, sitting on eggs, and trying to raise babies. It's the worst time to allow "gardeners" in Los Angeles --who seem to know and care nothing about plants, wildlife, gardening, green things, the cycle of nature, the environment or the earth--to hack away at shrubs, trees, bushes; any place that might harbor a nest.

The ungodly cacophony of power tools like leaf-dust blowers and those vicious rotating saws that slice away layers of hedges will make it impossible to hear chirping, will scare away the mother and will make it much more likely that even someone aware of the potential problem can detect a nest until it's too late.

The methods used will at least expose the nest to predators, very likely knock out the nest, eggs, or babies, and possibly just kill them at once. Are there people out there who can take the responsibility to oversee what happens outside their windows even if they don't own the property? Because in my experience property-owners don't waste time by actually paying attention to what happens on their land unless it costs them extra money.

Let me point out what happens here where I rent an apartment in a small house-like building on Norton Avenue near Fairfax. There's a small rectangle of yard on either side of the walkway to the front. The landlord has wasted who-knows-how-many millions of gallons of water over the years. When I moved in the sprinklers came on every night. They go on for about 15 minutes each time. Yet as soon as the plants respond by beginning to grow, they are cut down before ever fulfilling the intended purposes of their lives.

The grass is razed every week, removing clover, which bees love, and dandelions, which ladybugs need. And if the vague notion is to have a pretty lawn--obviously inappropriate in this region--then it is not accomplished by killing the grass with a mower by keeping it too short to shade the new sprouts. So the lawn is brown, ugly, sharp, and useless. Lawns were invented in moist, gray regions like Great Britain, where groundskeepers spent hours tending them properly. 

For the few months when I persuaded the gardeners to leave it alone, cutting it myself with scissors occasionally, it was bright green, lush, filled with tiny flowers. Birds hopped along the fence to reach down to the longer strands along the edge and feed on the seeds. The ladybugs made sure that my roses were magnificent.

I know that now, because, with the help of the "gardener" who planted tomato plants next door, slathering them with HANDFULLS of deadly Ortho pesticide [how is that still legal to sell?] from a jug every time he stopped by, my glorious roses never appeared again; the twisted, blackened buds failing to open and the leaves turning yellow and brown and dropping off. The pesticide killed the beneficial insects, and apparently also the birds who ate them, because the twittering and rustling in the cypresses next door was utterly silenced.

In Latin American countries where laws are even more lax, it's the custom to use a lot of pesticide & thousands of our migratory birds are dropping dead after suffering horrible nerve & brain reactions ( http://www.wildcarebayarea.org/site/PageServer?pagename=TakeAction_Songbirds)

The azaleas in my yard were methodically cut down to two-foot tall bundles of sticks before they ever grew green or expansive enough even to reach their full capacity to bloom, let alone to provide shelter or a nesting place for birds.

The little saplings that looked like weeds were constantly killed until I allowed them to grow into tall, straight trees with deep green leaves providing welcome shade for the lawn and the windows of the apartment. Dappled light and fluttering shadows have been hacked to pieces now, leaving the wide expanse of windows once again naked to the blistering sun, glaring doubly off the bare white stucco of the building next door.

Before the trees on Norton were "trimmed" (see the Audubon Society on the well-known overcutting of Los Angeles street trees for no reason http://losangelesaudubon.org/images/stories/pdf/TTGMay2011/ttg-may-2011-english-read-online.pdf) and the shade was removed from this property, you could FEEL the delicious drop in temperature as you turned off the shadeless blaze of Fairfax Avenue onto Norton, and then drop several more degrees as you got to my doorstep).

My undesirable view of the driveway, the street, and the cars is restored, the people outside can look in, the dust from the tires & exhaust from the engines comes through the screens. There’s nothing to muffle the sound of  traffic, voices, or machinery. I'm sure my landlord and many neighbors are content to close their windows, draw the ugly blinds, and keep their air-conditioning running for six months. Even if I could afford to consider that, I hope I would decide against such a NEEDLESS waste of energy, one that is making such a big contribution to the destruction of Earth.

Can we also please consider the massive waste when leaves are bagged--every day, here in the south--in impenetrable plastic, and added to the vast dimensions of landfills in this country. Leaves are where all the nutrients brought up from the soil by the roots are stored. That is WHY trees drop leaves back onto the soil, returning the nutrients.

It's a destructive move on both ends, to say nothing of the constant round of earsplitting leaf-blowing, which throws dust everywhere and could be accomplished in half the time with a broom on the hard surfaces where 90% of it takes place.

It looks like some ridiculous Three Stooges routine to see hours being spent blowing litter, leaves and dust away from whatever curb the gardeners are standing on, and even off the CARS parked there, into the center of the street, from which spot they will drift right back, or else drift to the opposite side where other gardeners will presently spend hours with shrill machinery blowing it away again. HOW can this be acceptable? HOW can a leaf hurt a car? How can we be forced to listen to that idiotic, Sisyphean behavior day after day?
 
Maybe the thought of what will happen to baby birds if people can't wait a matter of weeks to continue the pointless clipping will prompt some citizens to step in and take charge of the situation. That would be a wonderful sign that there's hope in the midst of this crazy pattern we seem to be stuck in.

Thank you.
 
Happy Earth Day.

Cassandra Silver

http://secretgardening.wordpress.com/

West Hollywood Patch accepts Letters to the Editor from residents. Please e-mail yours to Guest Editor James Mills. 

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