Nature & Me

I was planted early and deep in the natural world.

And so it began.

We had a house and a yard that was often filled with …  Read more

Trade-offs

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.

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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 …