Cities and a longing for what's real...

I spent last week in Chicago meeting with architects and consultants.  It is a beautiful city.  There is something very "Gatsby" about it.

Architects love the city because of the beautiful buildings by the water, but I found after spending so many days in the center of it all that I was longing for green.

The industry of my day job spends a lot of time talking about sustainability, and the reality is that if we are really going to protect the wild landscapes, humans will be increasingly incorporated into cities. The thing is that right now we don't do a very good job of including greenscape into densely populated areas.  I'm encouraged by some of New York's "pop up parks" and South Central LA's guerrilla gardening movement, but I believe that we have to take a personal role in making this happen.  Here are the issues and what we can do personally...

Concentrations of concrete create a "heat island" effect.  The term "heat island" describes built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas.

What you can do:  Any greenery you add to a sea of concrete helps, so plant a small tree in a big pot on your balcony—or even include pots with houseplants.  If you are truly adventurous, you can start container gardening for some food plants or herbs. Even if you don't have a "green thumb" just putting something low maintenance out there and remembering to water it periodically is a start.

Chemicals and lack of plant diversity are killing the bees.  Marla Spivak's TED talk about what is happening to the bees and how they are dying out is sobering. In the suburbs, our heavily chemical-ed and manicured lawns have created "food deserts" for the insect populations that we need to sustain life.

What you can do:  Stop chemically treating your lawn and plants.  Plant flowers that attract butterflies and bees, preferably a variety so that they bloom at different times of the year.

Agricultural knowledge is being lost. Growing plants is a skill—one that many of us grew up without learning.

What you can do: Try working with plants...even if you think you will fail.  The key components are soil, water and sunlight...and different plants need different combinations.  There is a bit of experimentation involved in finding out what fits your climate and your lifestyle.  As you try different things, it is inevitable that you will kill something. Get over it and chalk it up to learning curve.  There are plants that are low maintenance once you get them established and the only way to learn is to try things out.  (Though you can save on that learning curve with a bit of internet research. <smile>)

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall