At this point, there can be very little doubt that in a changing environment and changing ecology, we as people need to be better stewards of the land around us. There does not even need to be some sort of environmentalist basis for it; in many cases, this can even become a purely economic and quality of life question. This is truest in places that border bodies of water.
In areas heavy with wetlands, especially all along the gulf coast, development has ironically threatened the stability of our progress. When coastal areas are developed, it cuts down on the natural wetland stability that protects coastal cities from flooding. In the era of climate change and rising sea water, we need only look to the daily floods at the beaches of south Florida to realize that protective wetlands in many cases are the only thing that keep coastal cities from being swallowed by the seas. Everyone involved, from responsible developers to single homeowners, can be part of a plan to help return coastal wetlands to the protective role they once served.
This isn’t just true in coastal wetlands, however. Expanding suburbs and exurbs that cover the landscape in concrete, asphalt, and one or two species of grass not only threaten natural species, but also work to kill off entire ecosystems, and are threatening everywhere from the forests of Appalachia to the Great Plains to the desert Southwest.
To cover up the damage done to the biodiversity and the protective role it plays from invasive species, rising floodwaters and seas, and other threats to convenience, livelihood, and health, we need to consider replanting natural seeds to return to something resembling a natural ecosystem. Granite Seed and Erosion Control is one example of a company working on helping to restore natural grasses and other needed flora in the aftermath of disasters, both natural and manmade. For example, after the wildfires that devastated California and cost dozens of lives and thousands of homes, there is a need to help rebuild the natural habitat. While some big woody trees like the lodgepole pine need fire to reproduce, it takes time.
It isn’t hard, or costly, to make your home or business work in a green way. And one of the things that’s easiest to do is, when you are developing your area, use natural seed and natural plants to set the scene for your business. And while this article talks specifically about small businesses, many steps are simple to take even for a single homeowner.
Instead of just using cookie cutter bluegrass or another common grass, consider using a local grass for your lawn. When setting up a flower garden or a shrubbery, choose local plants to beautify your open spaces. There are dozens of steps you can take – just with your lawn – that can help with the ecological challenges we face all over the country.
Don’t just take it from me, other authorities are saying the same thing. The New York Times has done yeoman work covering the plight of an entire village on the coast of Louisiana. The town of Jean Lafitte is living on borrowed time, and as they put it, “the question is less whether it will succumb to the sea than when — and how much the public should invest in artificially extending its life.” While the plight of the village and the people who live there is certainly poignant, what might be most important to come from the discussion is what lessons we can learn from the town’s inevitable doom.
How can we prevent this sort of thing from happening? What can be done about other towns that will face similar, if not the exact same questions as we go forward? Responsible development is a part of the answer. It alone can’t solve the crisis that the changing environment is bringing us, but there can be no question that it has become more and more relevant. As our disasters become more severe, our responses must be more thought-out and must become up to the challenge.