Yard by Yard

When you talk with friends or family members, does the conversation include climate change?  Do you ever think of this moment in time as being a climate crisis? Have you ever thought about your role in making the world a better place?

The struggle is real.  With nearly 8 billion people on our planet, with land being cleared daily, with pollutants constantly entering our air and water from numerous sources, the time is NOW (although yesterday or 40 years ago would have been better) to pledge a commitment to building a better earth.

I could go a number of directions here – start using public transportation, become a vegetarian, don’t eat sandwiches from Jimmy Johns, but I have two suggestions. The first is to become involved in the Yard by Yard Community Resiliency Project.  If you live in Oklahoma or Tulsa Counties, you can have your yard certified as “nature friendly.”  Go to www.okconservation.org/yardbyyard to watch an introductory video and see the checklist of urban conservation practices that you can employ on your own piece of land in town.  If you can check off five practices from at least three of four categories you will be able to come aboard.  If you are not there yet, use the checklist (and associated links for more information) to develop a plan and start preparing your yard to be more than a mini-golf course.

Being a part of Yard by Yard means that you have made important choices to make your space beneficial for your community.  A few of the practices, and their benefits are:

Leave turfgrass a little taller – you can figure that the root systems of plants will be about as long as the blades you see above the ground.  Slightly taller grass means more roots, which means rain that falls on your yard is encouraged to soak into the earth instead of immediately becoming runoff.  A major benefit is reduced flooding and increased tolerance to drought.

Plant native grasses and wildflowers – where native plants flourish, our pollinators – especially bees and butterflies – find a meal and host plants for their eggs and developing young.  The especially long root systems of native plants, plus the plant diversity, again encourages infiltration, encourages life in the soil, and builds healthy soil.  It is not difficult to plan gardens and “wild areas” that blend in beautifully within the urban landscape, and even meet the HOA rules.

Grow your own vegetables – find a place in your yard for foods that will nourish you and your family, neighbors, and friends.  You will consider the weather and find yourself outside checking out the plants, which means you will strengthen your relationship with the outdoors.  You will enjoy fresh, more nutritious foods.  You will make new friends when you are generous with your homegrown tomatoes.

Offer a stick pile or brush pile – designate a special area for small creatures.  The earth is made up of many species.  Humans have so far proven to be the most able at changing the environment, but we do not have to try very hard to see the generosity in having a yard that is a functional landscape.

Provide a water source for birds, butterflies and other wee wildlife – dryer summer months can mean little creatures have a difficult time finding water.

To be involved in Yard by Yard your lawn must be pesticide free.  Each certified lawn receives a cheerful “Yard by Yard” sign that will not only designate your yard as special, it will encourage others to turn their own lawns into functional landscapes.  Yard by Yard is a starting place for a whole new mentality toward our one and only Earth.

Another thing to do for slowing the warming of our planet – be scientifically literate and become a part of the conversation that so many of us wish would just go away.  Climate change is real – humans impact the planet and those impacts are spiraling us in a direction that will have severe consequences.  As we take personal steps to be responsible citizens, let’s also talk to the people in our lives about what we are going to do about climate change.

It is a good thing to have a government that is not ignoring climate change.  Let’s add to the success of steps that we can take as a nation by taking steps as individuals.  Let’s use our “scientific literacy” to hear the important science and see the problems among us.  Let’s use our scientific literacy to have conversations and do the necessary work that is required.

Cheryl Cheadle, member, Human Community Network. Cheryl.cheadle@conservation.ok.gov  918-398-1804

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