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Carbon Sequestration



“Butterflies and Turtles”


Turtlehead is the host plant for Baltimore Checkerspot.  Both are quite rare now.  Sadly, the patch I used to visit has been obliterated.  I hate for my paintings to be memorials of past glories, instead of celebrations of thriving diversity of life.

So I’ve been listening to NPR again, and hearing some alarming things.  It seems some scientists are busy dreaming up crazy technological “solutions” for our little carbon problem.  One is to collect it somehow and inject it into the ground or deep under the sea.  Apparently there has been a test of this and guess what~ little creatures at the bottom of the sea die when we do that.  Other creatures, such as oysters, are experiencing reduced growth and thin shells from increased acidity in the ocean from rising levels of CO2, and some are dying outright.

Meanwhile, a trip through town reveals miles of grass and acres of asphalt.  It occurred to me that here could be a great opportunity.  Grass strips along our roadways is not  serving us for a few reasons.  For one thing, it has very shallow roots and so does virtually nothing toward absorbing either water or carbon.  Indeed, it must be irrigated to maintain its lush green growth.  Not only that, it requires chemicals to keep it growing and free of weeds.  To top it off, it then needs to be mown regularly, so there go the petroleum guzzling mowers!  What if we change our ideas of beauty, here.  What if shopping centers used locally native plants instead, to beautify their grounds?  Having adapted to local conditions, they require little or no care.  This could save municipalities a great deal of money, I would think.  In my area where prairies once grew, native plants sequester huge amounts of carbon in their roots.  Plus, those enormous root systems act like sponges, absorbing water from large storm events and keeping it out of sewage systems.  Just think of it…all those miles of sameness that currently suck up water, chemicals and money could instead be varied bands of lovely habitat.  Instead of toxic wastelands of uniformity, those strips of land along roads and parking lots all across our country could be helping us restore balance,  absorbing carbon.  Giving life, rather than taking it away.  Plus it is cheaper and simpler than a technology fix.

I think I’ll broach the subject with members of my county board.  Would anyone care to join me in tilting at this windmill?



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The Birds, the Bees, and You


Blazing Stars Along the Dead River

This was an exceptional summer for blazing stars at Illinois Beach State Park, and I wanted to share them with you.  I think I’ll probably paint a whole series, because it was just so pretty.

This kind of beauty is worth hanging on to, don’t you think?  Luckily we have nature preserves.  However, everything on this precious Earth is connected, and that brings me to today’s title.

Have you read the yahoo headlines today?  I have, and I felt ill.  Thousands of bees found dead in Oregon; the cause?  Insecticides.  Around here, ash trees are dying because of the emerald ash borer.  I was fortunate enough to attend a program given by some leading ecologists and it was very interesting to hear what they had to say about this.  They are not worried, because the ash is an abundant seed producer and a not so important component of the woodland ecosystem.  Their thinking is that it is likely the borer will race through the area and pretty much fade away when it runs out of fuel.  That abundant seed bank will then give rise to a new generation of ash trees.  The problem is that communities planted so many of them.  In the future, hopefully, we will learn to embrace diversity and plant a variety of trees along our streets.  But here is why I bring the ashes up:  at nurseries and hardware stores, I am now seeing chemicals advertised as ideal for treating emerald ash borer.  This is bad news for a couple of reasons.  First of all, by the time the homeowner notices that there is something eating his ash tree, it is too late to save the tree.  Period.  Second, these chemicals soak into the soil and kill everything they come in contact with!  That is what killed the bees found dead in Oregon, and it is what is killing bees and other beneficial insects all  over.  And it doesn’t stop there, of course.  The birds and other creatures that eat these poisoned insects are killed as well.  We are not immune, either.  Cancer rates are on the rise, as well as other disorders related to chemical poisoning.

WE MUST STOP USING PESTICIDES !!  Please, the next time you are experiencing a nuisance bug of some sort or other and reach for the RAID, think twice.  This stuff spreads into the soil and water and combines with other chemicals that are being sprayed, creating deadly cocktails that do not go away.

The beautiful blazing stars in my painting depend on insects.  The plants may be saved by the Nature Preserve boundary, but the chemicals applied by neighbors don’t recognize boundary signs.