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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
March 15, 1999
Within the current development paradigm, every human habitat comes at the expense of native habitat. Complete, and increasingly rare, ecosystems are being erased. Erased and replaced with what? With each new subdivision, lawns and sea fig, ficus and other exotic non-natives accent oceans of stucco and red tile roofs. Biotic communities such as vernal pools and riparian wetlands, are being lost to landscaping designs that have nothing to do with environmental balance.
Regardless of the amount of spin one wraps around the issue, non-natives, and I don't care if they are drought resistant, have no place here in Southern California. Mediterranean plant species belong in the Mediterranean. The only species that are specially suited to our environment, are the species that evolved here. These are the plants that should be used for landscaping. I'm sure the bourgeois can live without Bougainvillea.
We pride ourselves on being smart monkeys. Man has even walked on the moon. Why is it then, we can't find a way to live in balance with native environments. There are libraries full of books on biology, ecology, and the physical sciences, yet fractured ecosystems don't seem to be an issue for those responsible for revegetating the clear cut of suburban sprawl, or those responsible for it.
The current "Grade and Fill" development model would be considered genocidal if it were to be visited upon a human community. Imagine the uproar that would follow a thriving neighborhood in Escondido being bulldozed because a development interest decided that neighborhood wasn't bringing in enough profit. When human properties are condemned, to make room for "progress," people are given time to relocate. When native habitats are destroyed, the sound of the heavy equipment is the only warning wildlife gets.
To say that you are contributing to the environment by planting exotic plants at a time when legislation such as the MHCP is necessary to protect native flora from extinction is absurd. Contributing to the environment involves having as little impact as possible. When we grade native habitat to make room for shopping centers and amusement parks, the right thing to do, is to replant with native species.
Native animal species, depend on other native species to survive. By removing habitat, development removes important food sources and nesting sites. Any break in the food chain can have disastrous effects, and lack of nesting sites only adds to a species decline. We now know more than enough to comprehend the damage we are doing, yet we continue to remove coastal sage scrub to plant ice plant and queen palms.
It is just as easy to plant a coastal live oak as it is to plant a Brazilian jacaranda. Want color? Perennials such as California poppy, lupine and monkey flower, can flourish without any maintenance. There is in fact, no need to plant exotic plants. If we are really serious about saving paradise, local landscapers must stop paying lip service to environmental concerns, and move beyond
the selfish need to improve the aesthetics of Southern California. Not that the people who designed Legoland will ever understand the importance of functioning native habitats. Their idea of outdoor recreation requires merchandising opportunities, cement path ways, and landscaping that could be found in any suburban neighborhood. Homogenization is important, when your trying to make your tourists feel right at home.
Before we start worrying about accommodating visitors, perhaps we should figure out how to accommodate native flora and fauna before it is all gone. But then again, where's the profit in that?