Ministry of Controversy

“Take the Gardener’s Pledge”

Does that title grab you?  It did me, so I checked out the "Gardener’s Pledge Program" on the National Wildlife Federation site. Here’s the introductory info about it, and I welcome your reactions.

"Pledge to choose at least three actions to help fight global
warming…

"I pledge to take the following actions:   

  • Compost my kitchen and garden waste.
  • Contact your local officials.
  • Develop a rain garden.
  • Establish a "green roof" by planting trees around my house.
  • Reduce the threat of invasive species by using native plants in my landscape.
  • Improve your energy efficiency.
  • Limit my water consumption.
  • Reduce the use of gasoline-powered yard tools."

Just to get the ball rolling, here’s a question:  Do all these actions really "fight global warming"? 

And just one reaction: Does that language about taking a "pledge" seem a tad judgmental to you?  To put this in context, remember these are the folks who brought us the "Gardener’s Guide to Global Warming" that I and others been known to rant about.

Posted by on March 18, 2008 at 1:38 pm, in the category Ministry of Controversy.
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21 responses to ““Take the Gardener’s Pledge””

  1. Benjamin says:

    If I contact my local official, won’t the electricity I use in doing so contribute to greenhouse gases? And what are we going to talk about? Sports? But c’mon, I use an electric mower–I think that’s better than gas (not 100% benign, of course). Big shade trees on the south side might help you run the a/c less in summer. Still, these ideas aren’t very specific and so not too helpful–over simplified, redundant. And I agree about the pledge–I only use pledge on my furniture. I ought to feel guilty about that in some way, right?

  2. Frankly, I’ve done most of these (no green roof here) and I bet most serious gardeners already have. The Wildlife Federation is doing what, I think, many well-intended but misguided groups are doing to try and nudge us toward better stewardship of our resources and a smaller footprint: give us easy, painless tips to do “something.” But it’s dumbing down a big problem into easy steps.

    Sadly, the something we now need to do won’t be at all painless. It will take a lot more than planting a rain garden or composting to stop the damage currently being done. We can’t even talk about reversing the damage right now.

    And while I’m on my soapbox, let me say that individuals are a big part of the problem and need to be a big part of the solution. But until our big government takes global warming seriously, big changes won’t be made. Step #1 – Replace the president to makes ozone emissions political and tinkers with environmental policy where he has no authority.

    Arrrghghg!

  3. Colleen says:

    So, what’s the solution? Don’t do anything, because it just won’t be enough? Wait around for our numb-nuts government to realize that “we the people” actually care about the world our kids and grandkids will inherit? Wait for big oil/big agra to say “Oh shit…my bad! We’re going to stop lining our pockets now and do the right thing!”

    Yeah….

    I’ll take the native plants, rain gardens, and compost.

    Maybe our government will figure it out someday. I hope so. But any action I can take, no matter how small it is, I’ll take.

  4. Mad Tomatl says:

    It’s “in” to be “green.” So just about every organization is repainting its billboards in shades of green, hoping, of course, to get more “green” on their websites or in the postage-paid envelopes they flood our mailboxes with. If the scientific community concluded we need to “Save Mars,” our mailboxes within months would be flooded with appeals for money to “Help Save Mars.” Cha-ching $$$$.

  5. Beth says:

    I am not really sure why some of you are up in arms. I don’t see anything in that pledge that is really offensive, and if you are offended just by the word “pledge” what type of connotations do you think the word “manifesto” conjures?

    I also don’t believe that it is “dumbing down” the problem, but showing people what they CAN do to leave a smaller footprint. Some people just don’t know and this is a place to start.

    Face it, we have turning our backs on the possibility of global warming for over 3 decades and all of a sudden it is in our faces and people don’t know what to do. These are some simple easy ways to start.

    Those that are really concerned about the problem will do more research and find better ways to reduce the effect of global warming, but if everyone would just do a few of those tips, it would make a big impact. Not enough to change the damage we have do so far but it is at least a step in the right direction.

    If you do not want to keep only natives, don’t, but it sounds like everyone who has left a comment has done some of those ideas anyway. So why are you complaining?

  6. Nancy says:

    Except for the fact that trees around your house don’t make a “green roof” (a green roof is a wonderful thing I’d love to have, but can’t afford), I’m with them. Sure, it is judgemental. No one is forcing other people to go to NWF, though. People going to that site are looking for advice, in general. That advice is a great start.

    If we go to a site like that but not looking for advice, but looking to critique it, that’s not a judgement-free action, either. What’s the real issue here – too humorless? That, I can agree with – humor, about yourselves and others, is in general what is so appealing about Garden Rant.

  7. I think it’s a lovely idea to do everything in the “pledge,” because this type of alteration in the way we think about ecology will pay benefits for generations to come. Cleaner water, cleaner air, fewer marauding invasive plants, count me in.

    Not that doing any of it will have any effect on our planet’s current warming trend. Doing everything in the pledge will have zero impact in this regard.

    This is a really, really big engine we’re dealing with, and if it is currently running a little hot, it’s not the first time. I sit right now in south central Minnesota, on a patch of land that 10,000 years ago was covered with ice that was one mile high. ONE MILE HIGH!

    It extended down into Iowa. What happened? The Earth heated up. What happened to the ice? The glacier melted, retreated back to the North Pole.

    All those caveman campfires, I guess.

    Al Gore’s statement that scientists who believe humans are a contributing factor to climate change form a “majorty consensus” is a flat-out lie. They are not in the majority, they are simply getting publicity and funding beyond their wildest dreams.

    For the open minded out there, here are just a few sites containing research dispelling current man-made global warming myths. If you choose to rip this post apart, no fair unless you first read from the following:

    http://www.junkscience.com/news/robinson.htm

    http://www.ourcivilisation.com/aginatur/moregw.htm (Click on and read, “The Swindle”)

    Should we, as gardeners, do everything possible to protect the environment? Of course. But thinking we can do anything to control the overall temperature of this beast is a scientific impossibility.

  8. grouchylisa says:

    Ummm I’ve been all but the “contact local officials” and “develop a rain garden” things for a very long time–some for decades, the shortest probably for at least 5 years.

    My family and I have been composting since 1973. It had something to do with Ruth Stout and Mother Earth News in the beginning, and we just never got out of the habit.

    Very little water has ever reached the street from our home unintentionally–even the annual water heater cleanout gets run into the garden. A little bit of water reaches the gutter from one dripping eave after the 5-gallon bucket overflows, but we try to use the bucket as often as possible for watering the garden when it does rain. I put up my first rain barrel (okay, a beautiful enormous 50-gal. fiberglass urn I got on clearance at Lowe’s) this year. I’m on the lookout for other suitable containers, but until then it’s 5-gal. buckets.

    The trees around my home mostly just “happened”, mostly established by 1976. There are two volunteer Elm trees, two volunteer Ailanthus trees, one volunteer cherry tree, and two intentional cherry trees. On the south side, the apartment complex nicely contributed a willow and a maple tree (well past our property lines, so roots are not an issue) to further shade the back garden.

    I’ve been steadily adding native species to my garden mix since 1995, although it will NEVER be an all-native garden. All-native would be pinyon pine, sagebrush, juniper and rabbit brush.

    My family has always been tight. We don’t like to waste money on power bills. We have NEVER had a drier (laundry lines in the back garden), NEVER had a dishwasher, and we have been washing our clothes in cold water for at least 20 years. We have converted to CFL’s instead of incandescents whenever possible. My mother is a wacko overheated thing, so the house is freezing in winter. The house does not have A/C, and never has. Summer is the ONLY time my chilly body is happy.

    I’ve steadily been converting the garden from sprinkler to sprinkler-plus-soaker to just-soaker (aka “black spaghetti”) over time. We haven’t had a lawn here in over 20 years, I focus on xeric plants, especially in the dry front garden, and I already mentioned the rain barrel project.

    As for gasoline-powered yard tools? We never have owned even one. The lawn mower, purchased in 1973, is a human-powered reel mower. The string trimmer, purchased in 1996, is electric, and we usually can’t be bothered to use it. All saws and loppers are human-powered. Even my shredder is electric, and I’m usually too lazy to waste time shredding leaves before dumping them into my compost bins. Hey, raking is enough, right?

    I think I’m doing enough.

  9. Kylee says:

    I’m in the RENEGADE camp. It’s not popular to be there right now, I realize that. While I’m trying to be a responsible citizen of Planet Earth, and I feel we should all do what we can to minimize the harmful effects we are having as we live here, the earth has been, is, and always will be in a state of change. We’d better accept that and that we’ll also learn to adapt to the changes over time.
    I’m also a believer that there is something greater than we are that’s got ultimate control of it all.

  10. susan harris says:

    Hmm, interesting comments, y’all. Maybe what bothers me most about this NWF verbiage is that it conflates all these different subjects into the media buzz words “fighting global warming,” when only 4 of the 8 items could conceivably do that. (I’m including the incredibly confusing point about “establishing a green roof by planting trees” .)

    Here’s a funny thing about their point about natives and invasives. John Peter Thompson was recently telling me about his experiences on the technical panel of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, including the point he made to the others that if their focus were simply on global warming and greenhouse gasses, they’d end up recommending planting kudzu, since it’s so good at removing them from the atmosphere. (So be careful what you ask for.)

    Even when the cause is right and good and just and I agree with it, I’m bothered by misinformation and think it can and should be avoided.

  11. queenie says:

    What’s a ‘rain garden’?

  12. susan harris says:

    Queenie, generally it’s an indented area in your garden that holds water for a while and lets it percolate down slowly, though Google will lead you lots of detailed answers to your question.

  13. Barbara says:

    STOP with the lawn mowers and chemicals! The noise pollution alone keeps us happily mowing with our push mower…really fun exercise and easy. We compost, have a rain barrel, and plan to dig a 6×2′ “French drain” to keep rain from puddling close to the foundation. Can’t say enough about solar thermal and growing lots of organic vegetables.

  14. trey says:

    Be careful of that green roof with the trees. How will light get to your’s or your neighbors solar panels. A court in Sunnyvale, California ruled that those with solar panels have the right to expect a certain amount of light to operate those panels.

    How does planting native plants prevent the spread of invasive species? I guess because your not planting the invasive species?

    Other than those two ideas everything else they recommend is pretty much old news, but good to practice.

    Yes, contact your local officials! They are a great source of compost.

  15. Kim says:

    How did they come up with this pledge? It reminds me of elementary school? Are you smarter than a 5th grader?
    I’d feel like a stepford gardener if I signed their pledge. I enjoy my garden with plants from around the world ? Local nurseries are usually inspected by the USDA and are aware of invasive plants.
    http://plants.usda.gov/java/noxiousDriver
    I can’t remember the name of a song from the 70’s but the lyrics repeated “leave the earth as clean as you came” or greener I’d add. I do feel guilty when I’m in a hurry and throw orange peels and cans in the trash. Also I gotta get me some cute totes to carry groceries in.

  16. Eric says:

    I’ve been doing all the things in this pledge for years, except I do grow a mix of both non-natives AND native plants. My take on that is that I’m not “native” to north america either (my people came from europe) but after many generations I’m here to stay, and so are the non-native plants, so let’s make the best of the mix….I often wonder what the “native-only” plant people think of human immigration and how many of them are of native american descent, but I digress.) I’m a dyed-in-the-wool greenie, and what turns me off is the phrase “fight global warming”. Reminds me or the “war on drugs” and the “war on terrorism”. you can’t “fight” global warming – all you can do is deliberately adapt ways of living to mitigate human effect on the planet, but I do that calmly and peacefully – and live simply. I’m not out to “fight” anything. Why the use of warrior language when it needn’t and shouldn’t apply?

  17. Amen, Eric. I’m tired of the warrior language myself. Great sound bites but so divisive. Are humans contributing to global warming? Is the earth just going through natural warming cycles? Who the heck knows! My motto is “be a good steward of the nature and our resources because it is the responsible and eithical thing to do.” It also shows gratefulness towards life in general.

    Today’s adult generation is a mixed bag of people who are conscientious of our world, and those who never even think about it. The source of change is the younger generation and leading by example is the best way to integrate good stewardship habits in them to carry forward into adulthood. Lets do this calmly and peacefully like Eric said. Love and appreciation for nature is a greater motivator for people to take care of the earth than fear. “Fear” is a fleeting emotion that can be manipulated and change with the latest news headlines.

    Real change will come when we are all taught to appreciate, love and be in awe with the wonders of nature. If that doesn’t turn people on, then maybe they’ll be motivated by the direct benefits of lower energy and water bills and enjoying better health from wise practices.

    “Up with a positive spin, down with political spins!”
    Shirley

  18. Reading Dirt says:

    While I agree that the points listed in the “pledge” are elementary for the most part, it would be a step in the right direction for the gardeners around here whose yards are all grass with a tiny fringe of rhododendrons and bark dust, and who “weed” every few weeks with a bottle of RoundUp.

    The National Wildlife Federation also has its backyard habitat program and has had for some time. It’s a nice program to get people thinking about how to garden in wildlife-friendly ways. Qualifying is perhaps a little too easy, though. And once on their email list, they have an awful lot of products to sell to you — an odd stance for an organization that is trying to make people aware of over-consumption and global warming.

    While I don’t want people to get complacent, thinking that if they just recycle their pop cans that everything will be okay, I don’t want to discourage small efforts just because they’re small. Every little bit helps, and a little bit is better than nothing at all.

  19. My take on Global Warming is that it doesn’t make any difference who or what is to blame, but we all can take responsibility for our own lifestyle choices including those we make in our gardens. I posted this podcast at Jacksonville’s Times Union Newspaper: http://cgi.jacksonville.com/cgi-bin/podplay.cgi?id=080117155818

    In this neighborhood, many people have been convinced that God will take care of the earth no matter what we do her. I disagree with this. Here’s to smaller footprints in the garden and elsewhere!!
    Ginny Stibolt,

  20. susan harris says:

    Ginny, I love that!

  21. Danielle says:

    Hey everyone! I just wanted to thank you for this review. I work for the National Wildlife Federation and we really appreciate feedback especially from gardeners. I’m definitely going to share with others these thoughts and I encourage you to keep blogging. Also feel free to email me if there are ideas you have for us brigidad at nwf.org . We are trying to give you guys information that is helpful and non-offensive (of course)and so all of this information is wonderful to read. Keep blogging! -D

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