NATIVE


About a year ago I started displaying a word sign along the road at the intersection fronting my property (see September 2018 blog post). The word for this month (June 2019) is zealotry. Before you ask why, let me give you some background info. I was involved in the formative years of both the Illinois and Indiana native plant societies. In fact, I was the annual conference coordinator for the group formerly known as INPAWS. However, I recently divorced myself because I saw the natives zeal leaning too heavily towards a return to a purity pledge like in the early twentieth century. While I have a deep and abiding affection for and understanding of natural areas (nature's cathedrals) and the important symbiosis of native biota, I am also a realist. We cannot go back. Change is inevitable. Get over it. The halcyon days of Father Knows Best and Lawrence Welk, while desired by some, are gone and not returning. We (the human beings) have been too successful at overpopulating and have a corrupted view of what it means to be native. The image accompanying this post is a prima facia example. Chief Iron Eyes Cody from the highly effective pollution commercials of the 1970s WAS NOT a native American. He was full-blooded Sicilian. We allow ourselves, often due to slick PR, buzzwords, bias and prejudice, to be deluded (controlled) into believing falsehoods and half-truths. Hell, Mr. de Corti (Cody's birth name) even convinced himself.

Many of us are now of the mind that all natives are good and all non-natives are bad--people and plants. So what is the relationship to zealotry? Believing passionately in something that is NOT true makes it no more true. Truth be known, far less than 1% of the non-native naturalized plants we find in our landscape or at the garden center are problematic. Yes, the very small percentage is causing considerable environmental degradation (e.g., kudzu, Asian bittersweet, winter creeper, Asian honeysuckle, etc.) and I will continue to rail against these marauders and their enablers. But remember: (1) WE the human beings introduced them and (2) there are also many aggressive and troublesome natives that we as gardeners and good land stewards should avoid since they do not play well with others. Merely being non-native DOES NOT mean "bad" anymore than native necessarily means "good". Paraphrasing Barry Goldwater--evangelical zeal for a half truth or false cause is not a virtue. Wakeup and smell the roses, which are almost all non-native as is practically everything you eat, you non-native.

PS (thanks to my friend and mentee Christy Jacobi)

"...the greatest flaw of the species is its overwhelming tendency to mistake agreement for truth."

From The Overstory by Richard Powers

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