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Gone Organic: The clean and green scene

Observations from the Hedge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
September 9, 2003


"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." — Aldo Leopold

I wish to take a few moments to speak in favor of organic landscapes and gardening. And by organic I mean completely free of man-made chemicals and other applications of killer technologies. By no means should my words be construed as anything less than a full denunciation of all man made fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, germicides, fungicides, and rodenticides. Poison aficionados be warned; I don't look kindly on ecocide.

For years now our yardscape has been chemical free. Granted it is not your usual suburban garden, as we reject row plantings and flowerbeds. In the tradition of Capability Brown our landscaping is intended to reflect nature, not control or eradicate it. With native species as our primary focus we have a few random exotics, culinary inclusions, and a numerous medicinals. Achieving sustainable balance is the goal, and only through organic stewardship was that possible.

The choice to go organic was an ethical one. From a biocentric worldview, the introduction of deadly toxins into my personal habitat seemed counterproductive to a healthy living environment. All one has to do is read the labels of the products designed for your average garden gulag to understand why the stuff is best described as a controlled toxic spill.

Basically it is my belief that anything that comes with a hazardous warning should not be produced in the first place.

Take, for example, Miracle Gro. First of all, it's not a miracle that these peddlers of poison have yet to learn the proper spelling of the word "grow," something usually accomplished in the first grade. Perhaps the inability to spell "grow" is linked directly to prolonged chemical exposure. I also suggest it would be sensible to mistrust anyone promising miracles in a bottle.

The big question is what miracle is actually performed by spraying nonnative species with an unnatural substance? Not being a religious man I am unclear on what passes for a miracle these days. From my perspective, the true miracle is convincing humans the chemical addictions embraced in the name of convenience and control, are slowly killing us in the form of cancers, birth defects, soil depletion, and species loss. Sorry folks. Humanity cannot, and will not, improve on natural selection. All we manage to do is undermine the viability of human survival. Not convinced? How else explain the continued use of DDT, Malathion, and Dioxin.

Plants grown in well-balanced soil replenished with organic matter produce a sufficient level of insect deterring natural chemicals called polyphenols. Force-feeding plants with chemical fertilizer, in unfavorable growth conditions can produce lush growth with reduced amounts of polyphenols. The plant is then prone to attack, which in turns prompts the elevated use of poisons.

The problem with insecticides is the complete lack of discrimination. They kill all insects including beneficial predators like hoverflies, ladybugs, and spiders. And as nature abhors a vacuum, once a garden is ‘pest' free, aphids, slugs, and other hungry insects relocate and multiply rapidly in a microenvironment devoid of predators. Tipping the balance towards undesirable species is done in short order.

To keep ahead of competing species gardens are sprayed again and again, and again. Production of these chemical weapons destroys the biotic community in areas where these manufacturing plants are located, setting up a vicious cycle that benefits only those manufacturing and selling the toxic chemicals.

The only way to avoid this chemical treadmill is to grow a wide variety of plants, a buffet if you will, to attract a wide variety of insects, including beneficial predator species. Such a decision protects soil and plants from contamination, letting nature do the rest without an expensive, and ultimately failing paradigm of poison. By encouraging biodiversity, predators will be present in numbers capable of preserving a healthy backyard, with worms and vital bacteria's surviving, and thriving, in naturally sustainable balance.

The choice to go organic is ethically, ecologically, and economically superior. Sadly our culture makes choices based on commerce, comfort, and convenience. Ironically history will remember us a species that made things worse by trying to make things better. This is, of course, assuming there is someone around to remember.

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