Gardening: Reasons to Garden #5

The fifth "reason to garden" is an appeal (originally to students in my wildlife and environmental science classes) to save wild places and wild organisms.

Wilderness preservation and wildlife conservation are daunting tasks, and the challenge seems overwhelming. But, the simple act of tending a small garden, has the potential to begin to address the challenge.

To Save Wilderness

The Earth's human population currently exceeds 7 billion people, and it is increasing by more than 200,000 people per day!  To feed the expanding human family, modern industrial agriculture is causing serious environmental impacts.  Ironically, agriculture may not be sustainable as it is currently practiced. Furthermore, to propose that we must plow every square food of remaining wild land to feed the additional three billion people on Earth by 2050 is a plan of desperate human arrogance. Such a plan is the ultimate condemnation of everything that is wild and free on this oasis planet. W may be able to save wilderness by grow an increasing share of our food in places where people already live-- cities, towns, settlements, neighborhoods. Here,gardens offer the graceful possibility of living with, rather than to the exclusion of, the other five million species of organisms with which we share the planet.

Illustration from     Gardening: An Ecological Approach .  © Fred Montague

Illustration from Gardening: An Ecological Approach. © Fred Montague

Wildlife Commentary: "Let 'em Be"

In my 1992 FoxSense series of environmental graphics (cartoons), I offered several related to wildlife conservation and wildlife values.

This one, as it applies to large, free-ranging carnivores, proposes a challenge to humanity, with its ever increasing demands on Nature, to live in such a way that we can not only let 'em be (leave them alone with enough space to be the animals they have evolved to be) but also to let 'em BE (continue to exist at all).

Foxsense environmental graphic: "Let 'em Be". © Fred Montague

Foxsense environmental graphic: "Let 'em Be". © Fred Montague

Wildlife Project: Build a Nestbox for Birds

The depth of winter is a good time to build nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds.  Gather some recycled boards and a few hand tools. Old cedar or redwood fence boards are durable and easy to work with, but any type will do. Once you have a cutting plan and a workable prototype, cut out several. They are easy to assemble, especially if you pre-drill the holes and use screws. This makes a good family project.

There are many good reasons for placing nest boxes in the garden, yard, neighborhood, and throughout the countryside.  One is that natural cavities are disappearing as old trees disappear from the landscape.  The second is that native cavity-nesting birds face intense competition, especially in human-occupied areas, from two aggressive alien species-- starlings and house sparrows (English sparrows). Another is that the presence of the native birds, especially around your garden, will help balance out the insect populations.  

Will placing a few nest boxes about the property really have any beneficial effect on native birds? It certainly will on the birds that use them.

The illustration below is a page from my hand-lettered textbook that I used for a university service-learning environmental science course.

A page from Fred Montague's Environment Notebook 2010. © 1999, 2010 

A page from Fred Montague's Environment Notebook 2010. © 1999, 2010