This is the story of a road. A short stretch of gravel that goes nowhere and comes back again.

The story unfolded yesterday, with the throaty rumble of a John Deere tractor. Attached to the tractor is a large mower. The man in the cab works for the County. It’s his job to mow the shoulders of the road.

The County is responsible for maintaining its road network. A matter of safety. And liability. Drivers need a clear line of sight. There are regulations.

This is a road used by few. A couple of pickups a day constitute high volume. But regs are regs and must be enforced.

I hear the tractor drawing close but I stay in the woods. I know this road well, its shoulders, the ditches. I don’t need to watch.

After he has come and gone, the flourishing shoulders are flat. Clear cut. A faint trace of diesel mixes with the sweet smell of fresh-cut grass.


A County staffer will mark this stretch of road completed, a box may be checked and no further thought will be given to what happened here.

Except it wasn’t just grass that fell. Much was lost. Among the missing …

The  sixspotted orbweaver and the green lilies  
The shooting stars and their ripening seed pods   
The yellow rattle and wee harlequin bugs   

Gone, too, the largest patch of blue-eyed grass I’ve seen for a long while. These dainty lilies stretched a couple of hundred metres along the shoulder. I checked every few days, waiting for the blooms.

I’m not naive. Safe roads are important. But when human concerns trump all else we lose. It’s not just unsafe roads we need to worry about — it’s an unsafe planet.

We face massive challenges. Tar sands. Fracking. Flooding. Rising sea levels. Massive trash piles swirling in the Pacific Ocean. Climate change.

None of these problems appeared full-blown. They grew, little by little, because of our decisions.

When we negotiate, plan, buy, sell, dig, dam, expand — we usually do it without the most important player at the table: the natural world.

Not long out of the caves, our fight-or-flight reaction is geared to immediate response, not long-term thinking. It brings us trouble. A lot of trouble.

We forget that our actions have consequences. Repercussions. Our line of sight is anything but clear.

That is also the story of a road …


9 thoughts on “Trade-offs

    1. Sorry to hear that. I like to think of the UK as a bastion against that. More attuned than we are here. I’m amazed, for example, at the number of blogs there focussing on the natural world. It’s interesting to compare those to ones coming out of North America — it seems they are fewer in number, for the size of the country. Maybe that’s part of the problem. We have lived with “plenty” for so long we take it for granted, even as it’s slipping away.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think it is a global thing, and in the end it will be our our loss, and our future generations. Some of our bird populations are declining, same with some bee and butterfly populations, and some think its heavy farming methods, removal of hedgerows to get more out of the fields, and heavy use of pesticides. But we love our gardens here, as you no doubt do over there, and these do offer little oasises of hope for life to continue to florish.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think people like you, Pete, are doing a great service. Your obvious enjoyment and interest in things wild comes across in your photos and descriptions — you help make things accessible for people. And that’s a big part of the battle — we have become so separate. “Nature deficit disorder” tho’ not a disease is something that more and more suffer from. A great disconnect from the world we evolved with. Thank you for your efforts.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Why thank you Sally 🙂 You also are doing exactly the same thing on your side of the pond. And you are bang on regarding “Nature deficit disorder”. If more of us turned to nature, even just took more notice of the wonders in our backyards, we would be the better for it. I find nature soothes and inspires. We all should be ‘one with nature’, just as nature intended.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. 🙂 It’s heartening to find kindred spirits … Perhaps the technology that connects us (and in many ways separates us from the natural world) can be a bridge between the two, to enhance those very qualities you describe … not only for those of us who already relish nature but for those who never developed that connection to begin with.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome. Your photography and haiku are also helping to make people aware of the beauty and wonder surrounding us. The glow of a computer screen or an iPhone can’t compare to stepping outside into the wild, whether that is your back garden, a city park or a trek beyond the end of the road.

      Liked by 1 person

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