By Jose German
“Over the last half billion years, there have been five major mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating since the asteroid impact that wiped the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us.” – Elizabeth Kolbert, author of “The Sixth Extinction.”
Gardening for life is a holistic concept seeking to support and enhance life, both human and non-human, in our community and throughout the world. Today, human and animal species are facing environmental challenges never seen before. These include air and water pollution, depletion of natural resources, deforestation, and most frightening, climate change. What steps can we, as individuals and as part of a larger community take to address these threats?
Doing our part to create a healthier environment is an imperative necessity for the survival of humanity and the natural world. While it can seem overwhelming to think that we as individuals must fix all the global environmental issues, we can make a big difference together if we each focus on taking specific actions to make things better.
At home, we can implement a lot of changes that will have a global impact. Some obvious and easy small steps begin with electricity consumption, such as switching off lights and unplugging electrical appliances when not in use. A bigger step is switching to renewable energy sources, such as solar. If you can afford the initial investment for solar, for example, you will eventually recoup the installation cost and enjoy clean free electricity for years to come. Our own home has been solar powered for over fifteen years, and the system paid for itself many years ago. Using solar energy as your primary source of electricity thus not only reduces air pollution and greenhouse gases but saves money in the long run.
Keeping in mind that transportation is a principal source of greenhouse gases, we should consider alternatives to driving. Walking and biking reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save money on gas and car repairs, and provide pleasant forms of exercise. Trips of less than a mile are walkable for most people, and biking is an excellent alternative for distances of one to five miles. Of course, Montclair still has a long way to go in implementing its official “Safe Streets” policy, which would make the township much more inviting to walkers and cyclists, so an additional step would be to lobby our township to make Safe Streets a reality by implementing bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly measures. Of course, public transportation is an option for longer trips. Use public transportation when possible, and make your voice heard on the necessity of improving bus and train service.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and store it for long periods, so planting trees is another effective step towards curbing climate change. Planting trees on your own property is one obvious measure. In Montclair, we need to plant more trees more than ever since the township is facing a tree crisis as a result of infestations by the emerald ash borer (EAB), which is devastating our ash trees. The remedy to stop the spread of the spread is cutting more than 2,000 mature trees. Although the township has plans to replace the trees that will be taken down, Montclair residents can help out by planting trees on their yards and working with township and county authorities to assist with planting in public spaces.
One of the most important steps is realizing that each of us has a vital role to play in raising awareness of the gravity of the environmental crisis we are experiencing today and working with others on solutions.
Encourage your family, friends and relatives to join this effort. Yes, make all the adjustments that you can at home but also join local environmental organizations and volunteer or donate to local environmental programs. Your passion might be transportation alternatives, local food production, wildlife habitat, renewable energy, reducing plastics, or one of many other areas that affect climate change or the environmental crisis in general. Choose the area that interests you and get involved. Through these actions, each of us can play a role in saving our planet from the Sixth Extinction.
Every small act can make a difference. The time to act is now. This holiday, give a present to Mother Earth: plant a tree, join an environmental group, or make a donation to the organization of your preference. Taking environmental action is a gift of life for you, your family, the community, and future generations. You are part of the solution! Let’s plant the seeds to build together a movement to create hope for a brighter future.