Keep Your Garden Green! Helping The Planet By Protecting Wild Species
If you speak to a lot of people about conservation, they may be vaguely aware it's a good thing. They know we should be doing it, but above and beyond that they may not be sure what "it" is or even who "we" are. As a human race, yes, we need to practise conservation. It's good for the planet, right? So we need to make sure we're not doing things that involve going out into nature and destroying it. That's the trick, no?
It is important to be environmentally conscious. That much is a fact, no matter what your broader views are. Each of us has their own view as to where they are on that spectrum. On one end, there are those who recycle everything, don't drive a car and eat a plant-based diet. On the other are those who don't think anything we do affects the planet - or if we do, it doesn't matter. Top of the food chain has to count for something, right?
But, perplexingly, some people maintain the view that we can do what we want to the planet. If a species of a certain animal dies out, then it wasn't a good enough species to survive, yes? Survival of the fittest! That's what Darwin was talking about! Except he wasn't, but never mind. And what if the planet does destroy itself because of choices humans made? I'll be long gone by then anyway!
Well, it's true that we're not immediately facing an extinction-level event. We're probably all going to be gone by the time any of our actions have destroyed the Earth. That's the good news. But conservation is important for more than just avoiding the obliteration of the species. How we keep our planet has an impact on just about everything. A short-sighted approach to conservation, as edgy as you may feel it makes you, is negative for more immediate reasons.
The world we live in is a hugely complex ecosystem. There are plenty of theories as to what impact may result from certain actions. There are other things, though, that we can know for certain. Species of animals are not just important for their own sake. Whether human, cattle, bird or insect - or anything else - all are playing their own part. And what we can do, as humans, is to ensure that those parts get played.
To make a long story a bit shorter, the part we can play in conservation is to allow other species to thrive. What they do, as a result, allows complex and essential processes to take place. Including making your garden prettier and more practical.
Some people may feel that if bees die out, for example, that means there's one thing fewer that can sting you. But what it actually means is disastrous for the human race. And no, it may not mean we all die out right away - but resources will be placed under huge strain. Prices will be driven up. There will be a serious effect on people's health as artificial and chemical systems are put in place to do what nature should do.
So if you are wondering what you can do yourself, to assist with the ecosystem we all share, there are some options. You don't have to do any of them, but you'll be making a positive contribution if you do. And all of them can be done in the home - well, the garden anyway.
1. Keep A Fish Pond
Having a pond in your garden where you keep fish may seem from the outside like a vanity pursuit - fish live in rivers, streams and seas! Having them in your garden to look nice and swim around is showing off, surely? Except no, it really isn't. Aside from providing a home and support system for the fish themselves, there is a lot more that can be achieved by keeping a pond.
For starters, the presence of a pond is a support system for more than the fish themselves. As long as it is well maintained and has plants in it - which it should - it will attract other wildlife and allow them to thrive. This wildlife includes frogs and toads, which keep populations of insects under control. This in turn allows other local wildlife to survive and carry on work that keeps the environment in good shape.
Not only that, but your garden benefits from the placement of a pond, with the sludge from the filter being a powerful natural fertilizer. Rather than spending money on chemical brands - which are bad for the environment - use that sludge! It's effective, saves you cash and has less impact on the planet. Just be sure to keep the water clean, as this makes it more supportive for wildlife. Living Water aeration pond aerators, among others, will help with this.
2. Beekeeping - It's Not Just For Hives Anymore
Now, most of us can't honestly say we pictured ourselves becoming beekeepers when we were kids. And even now, the idea of donning one of those suits and hats and going out to tend to the hives may seem outlandish. But as mentioned above, bees are of huge importance to the planet. Keeping them at your home or an allotment may not be a crazy idea after all when you realize how important they are.
The impact of bee extinction - and it's a less fanciful notion than you may think - is hard to sum up simply. However, in its most straightforward form, the argument goes like this. Bees fly from flower to flower collecting pollen to use in the hive. In doing so, they pollinate flowers, which encourages them to grow. As well as the flowers we keep and like to look at, bees also pollinate crops. So they benefit your garden, and the world beyond too.
Those crops include not only the vegetables we put on our plates, but also the food that is given to livestock, which become the meat some of us eat. They include natural fibers used in clothing and even the plants used to make medications.
So, without the bees to do this work, nothing grows, right? Well, not exactly. We would need instead to use artificial means of pollinating crops. This is possible, but would require more work on the part of us humans, and more machines, which require more fuel.
And if you're not beginning to see the problem, this means depletion of resources. It means more money spent on these processes. It means higher prices for just about everything. Not to mention the environmental impact of the fuel used for these machines.
Do you need to set up hives and put on one of those costumes to make a difference? Well, you can and it would do a big favor to the planet. But even if not, just erecting a bee hotel in your garden, which does not require the same tending, supports bee populations.
3. Provide A Refuge For Hedgehogs
A lot of pro-conservation talk makes it difficult to avoid sounding cutesy and hippie-ish. This last point makes it more or less impossible. How do you talk about protecting hedgehogs without sounding like you're cooing over a small, cute animal?
Well, it is important to note that hedgehogs play their part in environmental protection by providing pest control. Most of all, they keep slug populations under control. Slugs, if allowed to proliferate, will make a mess of plants you grow in your garden for food and for pleasure. They don't need to be eradicated, but by keeping the population under control we benefit our gardens and the Earth.
Is it relevant that the slug's main natural predator is widely viewed as one of nature's cutest creatures? Not practically, no. But if that's what it takes to persuade people to take an interest in their conservation, then that's fine. Hedgehogs aren't wonderful at defending themselves, despite the prickles. Their survival is at risk from pesticides, traffic and - I beg you not to picture this last one - badgers.
To ensure that your local hedgehog population is protected, there are various things you can do. These include setting up a wooden box refuge to allow them to protect themselves. If you are looking to keep slugs out of your garden, use non-toxic slug pellets, at hedgehogs will eat slugs. Before you start a bonfire, check the pile for any creatures, as hedgehogs particularly like to take refuge in leaf piles.
You can encourage hedgehogs to take refuge in your garden by leaving food out for them at night. They like cat food - it is suggested that poultry flavors are particularly palatable to them. And although there is a cliche that they like bread and milk, this is inaccurate. Like most mammals, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. While we're on the subject, don't give milk to cats either. It's bad for them.
To some people, it may seem like protecting and conserving populations of species other than humans is immature. It may seem interventionist, getting in the way of nature. But look at it this way - we're living in houses, driving in cars and drinking bottled water. We've got in nature's way enough, often in negative ways. Why not take the opportunity to redress the balance a little?