Wednesday, November 12, 2008

slugs (and earth), please accept my apology

Actually, although I am feeling very much bad for the environment, I am not feeling one little bit sorry for slugs of any description. I've just been outside in the balmy, moon-lit evening, hand picking them off my plants and soil. (No, the yeast and caffeine weren't so successful, although I am still using both to some degree. I suspect my pots of yeast are not big or deep enough) My endeavours tonight were not helped by the only torch I had batteries for refusing to work. It's not so easy to hunt for slugs by match light, burning one's fingers, choking on acrid sulphur, blinking smoke from the eyes. I caught enough to satisfy my need for revenge before coming inside and vowing to buy batteries of every size and description tomorrow. This. Is. War.

It's all got me to thinking. Here I am trying to be organic, do my bit for the environment, eke out a small food supply for ourselves without straining the earth any more than necessary - but are we going about this the right way? I read 'Prodigal Summer' by Barbara Kingsolver (my current favourite author) at the beginning of the year. The book is a novel but I learned as much about ecosystems (Kingsolver was originally a biologist), predators and environmental balance as I did about the lives and loves of the characters. Kingsolver argues strongly for allowing natural predators to maintain their place at the top of the food chain. We humans have argy bargied our way to the top, removed the natural predators and consequently found ourselves with a mess of pests and weeds. Allow the natural predators back and they will soon restore balance to the system and control the pests.

So, my vegetable patch. What are we doing wrong that we are so overwhelmed by pests? Which predators have we removed? Here I find myself between a rock and a hard place. Allow the birds in and they destroy the seedlings. Swathe the garden in bird netting and the slugs rise to ascendency and destroy the seedlings. Catch 22. Add to the bird netting the presence of four hungry chickens pacing outside - if I was a slug I'd hive off to the safety of the covered garden too. I can't solve this one overnight, but it's got me thinking.

Maybe I'm thinking too much! I read an article on a news website (I've hunted and hunted for it tonight but can't locate it) about people who are over environmentally zealous. They rewash plastic bags (tick), walk around in the dark (um, tick) and look down on any low life who fails to act in the best interests of the environment (I swear it was only once or twice...). I keep remembering this every time I make some ridiculous 'environment saving' choice at the shop or in the house. 'Settle down Cecily' I say, 'Steady on.' But recently I asked a friend who is studying environmental sustainability if (in view of her studies) she thought global warming and climate change was a myth, as those in government and industry so often like to suggest. She shocked me by saying not just no, but that environmental scientist's predictions are dire. The environment is in a far worse state than the public are being told. The code of silence is being maintained to prevent mass hysteria.

That scared me a little. I don't think climate change is a myth, but to hear people in the know are so concerned... well... can we survive this? Will my small, organic vegie patch make any difference? Should I give up now? Or is my eco-guilt driven obsession helping turn the tide of destruction? Is there a black and white answer to this question? I'm not sure, but lest you think I am becoming over the top in my eco-warrier endeavours I have a confession to make. I ordered a book from Amazon in the USA. Yes, dirty carbon footprints will be left from wherever Amazon are based to my front door as my (eco-friendly, get back to nature, stop eating so much processed food) recipe book wings its way to me. (In my defense, it doesn't seem to be available in Australia anymore, and even the local bookshops were going to have to order it from the USA - for a significantly greater amount due to the plummeting Australian dollar. Amazon had a winning deal, so I promise to put the money I saved into greening the earth some other way. Will that suffice?)

I don't know. It's all so complicated. I have to face the fact that I cannot exist without placing strain on the earth. The question is - how least to do so.

If you know the answer, could you please let me know!

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At 4:12 am, November 13, 2008, Blogger Cherie said...

I don't have the answer - not sure any of us fully understand the question. While it's commendable that you are diligent and caring about your home - Earth - I think you stress yourself too much. Yes, your garden patch and other endeavors make a difference. They make a difference to you and all who know you. They speak responsibility, awareness, compassion, and consideration. Don't give up, Cecily, but do try to have more joy in your efforts.

About the slugs, I use a natural, earth and pet friendly slug bait and feel no shame in doing so. My family is, after all, more important than an overpopulation of tenacious slugs.

At 6:14 am, November 13, 2008, Blogger deanna said...

Snakes. (Cherie will cringe, sorry.) But if you can get hold of any pretty little garter snakes, they're the predators you're lacking. While they haven't destroyed our slug population, we at least have a greater bean population each summer. (I think Tim sprinkles ashes from our woodstove around the garden's perimeter sometimes, too.)

Of course slug bait would likely work, and it's good to hear there's a friendly type out there.

I wash plastic bags and walk around in the dark, too. My reasons are as much economical as environmental. I'm concerned about climate change, but I'm fairly convinced humans are not the sole culprit (not to take away responsibility for doing our best, but that's all one can do). My reason and intuition tell me the planet will adjust itself, as it has over the millennia. In the meantime, Befriend a Snake Today.


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