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SITE SYNOPSIS - This blog* is part of a website launched in 2016. The site platform (WIX) has excellent analytics, including a feature called Traffic by Location which, among other metrics, enables me to keep track of visitation. I use this tool daily and thought you would be interested in learning more. For instance, the first few years rarely were there >250 users a month. Fast forward: recently I had 254 unique users on one day and last year there were just short of 9,000 from 52 different countries, with 89% from the U.S. Of the remaining 11%, 3.5% were from the United Kingdom, followed in order by Canada, Australia, South Africa and India. I am not certain how to interpret the fact that 95% of site visitors are new users. The blue poxed map above is a screen pic of a 30-day period for late fall 2023. There was a pronounced surge following my painfully long and direct July PHYTOFASCISM post, although the most viewed rants have been (1) Green Giant - BEWARE, (2) Goldenrod, A Lovely Garden Thug and (3) RESOURCES, with a focus on Soules Garden. The unique visitors are now north of 1,250 per month which extrapolates to 15,000+ per annum. No doubt the numbers would be greater if I employed a shtick, like excessive profanity, or utilized social media -- made the choice, about the same time I started this site, that I could do without that enticing trap. Nor did I start the site to become popular. I need privacy and find the notion of celebrity disgusting. Further limiting the number of users is the reality that the vast majority of people are not interested in plants and do not garden, various reasons, thus the potential audience is quite small. Sad to say, but I suspect that total is <1% of the population. We are NOT a gardening society, and becoming less so. Included in those who could benefit from using the site but instead shun it, and me, are more than a few deluded native plant zealots and a club of thin-skinned Master Gardeners. Their loss. -- FYI, club is the collective noun assigned to Master Gardeners. *I am obliged to use the term blog, but my entries are more a series of essays, and the format I originally considered developing was a forum / journal combo.

My aim from day one has been to provide a unique and candid source of trustworthy plant, gardening and environmental advice and information, frequently addressing overlooked topics, and for free. You are welcome. The counsel is pragmatic, philosophical, cynical, sometimes amusing, often wordy and steeped in sarcasm, and commonly opinionated (here, experience based judgement). Further, I have managed to do all the site work myself and refused several overtures to include paid advertising -- felt doing so enhanced credibility. While I do occasionally promote businesses and "things" it is not because I receive compensation. Likewise, if I do not like a practice or do not recommend or use a thing, I am not hesitant to say so, and why. Finally, I was also required to have a .com listing because I initially used the site to vend my Rantings book. It probably should bother me that the website service cost usually exceeds the revenue generated through it, but that is not the platform's fault. My site is really a public service, so .edu seems more appropriate. While I may be a poor businessman, at least I am authentic, sincere and trying to help. Again, you are welcome.

RESOLUTIONS - When younger I was more of a traditionalist and mostly acquiesced to the conforming pressure. Now, disenchanted by and mad at mankind, not so much -- more an outspoken iconoclast, emboldened social critic, environmental activist and proudly irreverent realist. One of my traditions was making resolutions and, as is common, they usually were made in association with New Year. These self-promised behavior changes often did not last and, as I have gotten old older (will be 72 in May), I question the rationale of making the resolutions just at New Year. I have also gotten better at maintaining the changes.

I got to thinking and decided that I should post -- not coincidentally, on Jan 1-- the resolutions I have made over the years that relate to gardening and environmental issues. That list, which did not actually exist in print until I crafted this Rant, is sort of a Lifestyle Code of Ethics. By sharing this list of practices I adhere to, as well as indicating why (i.e., expounding on the reason), perhaps I can influence others to modify their behavior and in so doing help us be better stewards. Mind you, these (see below) are MY resolutions (my goals and not rank ordered) but IF the rationale stirs you to act, why not?

We are critically close to the tipping point for many environmental problems. There is no time to waste. And we are all, to some degree, part of the problem -- most of the crises are directly related to human overpopulation and the associated activity. At the forefront of why is greed, ignorance and our gullibility to PR (public relations) -- what was called propaganda prior to the Nazi's employing, and thus tainting, the word. Related, I recommend you checkout online the excellent, revealing and frightening 4-part 2002 BBC documentary The Century of the Self. It will make you question whether we are really in control when it comes to decision-making. Caveat emptor suddenly also suggests, and for good reason, that we are being manipulated. Having freed myself, I feel compelled to expose the manipulation process or method (how, who, why, where and when). As part of my continuing effort to help illustrate, last month I built my rant around the tune title Getting to Know You. This month I will draw your attention to a different Rodgers and Hammerstein song, You've Got to be Carefully Taught (i.e., inculcated) from another of my favorite musicals South Pacific. This tune, too, has a special message . . . about how we can be easily misled and the advantage of getting to the targeted audience while they are still young, thus easier prey, more vulnerable. A time-tested brainwashing (control) mechanism.
So, here are my strictures:
  1. Use and do all I can to promote more environmentally responsible packaging. For example, use less plastic including polystyrene (styrofoam). There are excellent cellulose (cardboard and paper) alternatives (e.g., egg cartons and for leftover food). Further, plastics are made from fossil fuels. FACT: both pose long-term health and environmental problems and "every piece of plastic ever produced is still with us in some form." By reducing our use of these materials we force needed innovation. Unless pressure is applied (e.g., boycott / power of the purse) the status quo will prevail -- easier and more business / corporate profitable, and the problems will continue.

  2. Reduce the amount of wasted driving. Try to drive less overall -- combine errands and abstain from driving at least 1-2 days every week. The combustion of fossil fuel, which is the source of 95% of transportation energy, is the biggest manmade contributor to greenhouse gas (atmospheric pollution) thus a major factor in our climate warming crisis. Then ask yourself, what is the source of the E used to charge electric vehicle batteries as well as in the production of the battery? Electric vehicles ARE NOT the miraculous saving fix many presume. Instead, think less people, less driving and better efficiency (which may require less vehicles, more mass transit). I can already hear the "how unAmerican and freedom robbing" protest, but we have only ourselves to blame -- too many of us and behaving in an unsustainable manner.

  3. Reduce the thermostat a few degrees in cold weather and raise it the same amount during warm weather. In so doing, we use less E and also reduce our heating and cooling bill. We never have our thermostat above 68 (F) in winter or below 72 in summer. We reduce or increase it still further during bedtime.

  4. Eat less meat, especially red meat. I enjoy a meal with quality red meat, but a diet with less of it is healthier. Plus, cattle farming is a substantial contributor to the production of greenhouse gas (again, atmospheric pollution) -- ruminant methane production. Methane (CH4) stays in the atmosphere for a shorter period than CO2 -- years as opposed to centuries -- but CH4 is a worse greenhouse agent than CO2, about 25x worse. And, if meat is part of the diet, do your best to ensure it is from humanely grown animals -- DO NOT support factory farming. Animal agriculture (the manure) also produces 2/3 of the world's nitrous oxide (NO) emissions which has a global warming impact about 300x that of a CO2 molecule.

  5. Be more wildlife friendly, especially reducing or stopping all activities driving the critical decline in insects (e.g., the overuse of biocides, including fungicides and systemics). Another manmade disaster. The situation is serious, like taking your blood pressure and getting a consistent reading of 180/110, or worse! And never indiscriminately spray insecticides. These poisons can AND DO affect more than mosquitoes, and other than insects! Spread the word about the danger and stupidity of using any business that does what Mosquito Joe touts.

  6. Use appropriate plants, especially (1) species that match the conditions/habitat you have to offer and (2) avoid any known and truly horrible invasive species, a topic I regularly focus on in my rants. Further, remove any invasive species/specimens already growing on your property. For many midwestern invasive woody species, I find that Dec - March is often a good time to dispatch them, assuming the ground is not frozen. When done in winter many of the species are more obvious (various reason) and the associated task is often easier -- for the deciduous species, no leaves. Do it manually and be sure to get some of the roots. And there is no need for or advantage from the use of herbicides when the extraction is done manually in winter.

  7. Use plants to help but know that ALL plants have both good and undesirable attributes -- it depends. Use plants to provide shade (blocking), as a source of protein and as a CO2 reservoir or bank. A single large shade tree can provide the cooling equivalent of a dozen or more window AC units. Beans, for example, are protein (amino acid) rich. Moreover, Nature already provided the excessive atmospheric C solution, photosynthesis. All green plants, whether invasive or not, serve as a carbon sink -- CO2 is fixed/combined with H2O to form organic compounds, thus sequestered. IF we can get the release vs fixation back in balance, we eventually could be alright on that front, although our reliance on fossil fuel makes the prospect bleak.

  8. Recycle and repurpose. Reduce the quantity of garbage. You may not want to think about solid waste disposal but we should and nonrenewable resources are so-called for a reason. Our environmental problems ARE NOT getting better -- how could they, given the overpopulation? There are now >8,000,000,000 of us and counting! -- 4-5x the responsible carrying capacity. Also refer to Humans (Chapter 94, Problem Species) in my Rantings book. Understand that the potential consequences (the atonement, e.g., climate warming) will be long-term and sobering. There is a profoundly liberating feeling that comes with voluntarily being able to get by with less (space and things). Related, I consider any gardener who does not compost to be foolish and deficient.

  9. Use synthetic fertilizer ONLY in special circumstances. It is usually unnecessary. I have 3-acres and a 1-lb bag lasts several years. We too often follow ill-advised industrial farming practices AND are vulnerable to marketing. What Edward Bernays (father of propaganda AKA public relations) called the engineering of consent and desire -- getting you to buy something you do not need (i.e., to act irrationally). Again, watch the documentary! FYI, to get nitrogen into a usable form (i.e., combining N and H to produce ammonia NH3) using the Haber Process requires lots of fossil fuel. Essentially, synthetic fertilizer (and pesticides) are fossil fuels in another form. And know this, 1/3 of all human related Green House Gas (GHG) production is from agricultural activity -- feeding the masses. Even the so-called father of the Green Revolution and recepient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Norman Borlaug came to realize the inherent problems with the advances he helped pioneer because we would not (and will not) deal with the "Population Monster." Corporations (big business) saw and see this not as a problem, rather an opportunity -- more potential customers. And by buying and using the products and services they supply, we are complicit. See through the corporate PR and be strong enough to resist. -- You may also find my previous rants Taking Food Plants for Granted and Farmers and Farming both relevant and eye-opening.

  10. Buy and promote local business and products!

  11. Keep looking for ways to help and lead by example!

  12. Don't quit!

Education is the key, helping to get people to want to contribute to a better way forward -- a sustainable lifestyle, one that is more environmentally friendly. But no one likes to be told that they are wrong, or that they cannot do something, or have something they want taken away. Therefore, if the change is mandated it will be less likely to be accepted/to work but, lacking voluntary corrective action, decrees will be necessary. It is crystal clear, we cannot continue to live as we do, with our ever-increasing head count, without major changes and, since the problems are OUR problems, it seems reasonable that WE should all contribute at least a fair share to the goal of trying to keep things from getting worse. The likely near future lament . . . if only we had known, if only we had taken it more seriously and done more . . . will ring hollow. We do know, just preferring denial and blissful ignorance. As Aldo Leopold prophetically noted in his 1949 Sand County Almanac, "The modern dogma, is comfort [convenience] at any cost." There are many justifying reasons (excuses) like, out of sight, out of mind, or someone else can deal with it, or we'll do it later. Well, we are about out of time, and there is no reset button or planet B.
So, why do I make the effort (self-sacrifice) even though I suspect it is futile? ANSWER: because I genuinely care and am willing to do the right and rational thing for future generations including the other organisms that share this wonderful world. What about you? IT'S THE ENVIRONMENT, STUPID! No environment, no economy! Shamefully, most people are apathetic and unwilling -- addicted to entertainment. Fiddling while Rome burns. And the changes will need to be ongoing, not once and done. Moreover, our delay in taking adequate corrective measures has complicated and made the situation more challenging. On top of that, if you think merely weaning yourself from plastic straws will do the trick (i.e., be sufficient), you are a fool. Those who know me know that I appreciate and frequently employ powerful quotes. One of my favorites is suggested to be an old Greek proverb. Whether or not the attribution is accurate, the meaning still rings true, "A great society is one in which old men plant trees whose shade they will never enjoy."     
In closing, I will offer Mahatma Gandhi's wise advice (not all advice is), "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." To each his own but too often we DO NOT consider the implications of our behavior on others, yet . . .. We CAN be better but it will require compromise and the courage to act (modify our behavior) and starting NOW. What is your excuse? I suggest the sacrifice (change for the common good) will be more than outweighed by the satisfaction you will feel having done so. Less a part of the problem, more a part of an improved way forward. When and if you do decide to be that better human, let me be the first to say, welcome and thank you.

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