A few years ago a team of construction workers appeared at a nearby wood lot.
They brought with them bulldozers, dump trucks, log pullers; a whole arsenal of
anti-nature weapons. A truck came with a large tank of herbicide and saturated
the soil to kill the “weeds”, the beautiful wild plants that supported life in this
remnant of nature in a suburban DC neighborhood. And they brought a large
sign which they placed boldly on the side of the road. I don’t remember the exact
words, but essentially the sign said:
WE ARE BUILDING A PARK
I was shocked, appalled. How could they destroy such a beautiful little retreat, a
place where kids could play and build forts and catch salamanders, a place with
trees and flowers, a place called home by raccoons, foxes, deer, bats, and a
plethora of other living beings. Then they call the resulting wasteland, saturated
with toxic chemicals, a park?
I watched the progress each time I drove by, as the trees were cleared, the ground was bulldozed into a large flat
even patch of mud. Then a small building appeared, and another. Sod trucks came and laid fields of uniform,
monoculture grass where a thousand species once lived. Eventually, ballfields emerged, large parking lots, and
concrete picnic areas.
Now, every time I drive by I try not to look. It hurts to think about what we lost to “build a park”.
Sometimes I look around at the development and the waste and pollution and I feel helpless. All around me I see
new roads being built, I see housing developments, I see bulldozers and asphalt trucks. I think to myself, am I the
only one who wants to breathe fresh air, to live in a world populated by wildlife, to walk in a clean stream on a hot
summer day? Am I the only one who wants the kids of the next generation to be able to walk to the woods down the
street, catch crayfish and salamanders and turtles and snakes, just like my friends and I did when we were kids?
Over the past 40 some years that I have lived in the Baltimore-Washington area, or the DMV (DC-Maryland-
Virginia), I have seen a lot of changes. The density of people, the number of people occupying the area, has
increased dramatically. Automobile traffic had increased, more houses have been built, more businesses have
started for people to work and buy goods and services. These changes have an impact on our health, both physical
and mental, as well as on the natural world.
We are in a constant struggle to balance the needs and desires of a civilized world with the need to maintain a
healthy and sustainable environment for people to live in. It is our responsibility not only to maintain the environment
for mankind, but to maintain a healthy environment for the other life that shares the earth with us. A healthy
environment will preserve our water resources for future generations, maintain clean and healthy air to breathe,
provide safe and pleasant recreation areas, and will allow nature to thrive in a healthy natural balance.
The landscape has changed remarkably. Many areas that were once farmland or small woodlands are now
communities; the trees and open areas are now houses and manicured lawns. Other areas have become office
buildings, malls, and shopping centers. The woodlands are disappearing at an alarming rate.
People have made some effective changes to improve our environment and protect our health, such as reduced
soot emissions from cars, laws requiring proper disposal of used motor oil, a ban on lead paint and on leaded
gasoline. At the same time we have introduced new assaults on the natural balance of life. Lawn fertilizers,
pesticides, household chemicals, pharmaceutical drugs, automobile emissions, packaging materials, wood
preservatives and other chemicals and metals from products such as cell phones and televisions ultimately end up
in the air, soil, and water. Clearly we need to go much farther in protecting nature, for our sake and for our
grandchildren who will have to live in the world we leave behind.
Some challenges we must address to maintain the balance of nature while living a modern civilized life include:
Redistribution of Plants and Animals