Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sterilizing the Sedgwick County Landscape

Boy, the people of Sedgwick County sure like to waste gas and time mowing and plowing. It must be a "religious" thing, or something. Sterility is next to Godliness, perhaps? Too bad God didn't understand that when he created a complex ecosystem on this planet.

The fields around here look like brown velvet. They've been plowed so many times in the last few months that any earthworm that might have ventured inside one of their boundaries must be mincemeat by now. But they sure look "neat"!

The vast majority of "country" homes in this county seem to be pretending to be mini-English estates, with manicured grass from one edge of the property to the other -all 5 or 10 or 20 acres of it. We looked at quite a few of these as we were trying to find a home here: restrictive covenants usually require that ALL of the land be mowed. One area even restricted us to 2 pets - cats and/or dogs - on the entire 6 acres. WHY would I want to move to the country just to have to spend hours of my time and massive quantities of gas money mowing, then be restricted to far fewer pets than I'm allowed even inside city limits?! And how barren and ugly those little neighborhoods are.

But the current crowning stupidity occurred yesterday. At the end of August, the county road crews mowed the ditches along the road we live on, along with the ditches beside most of the county roads in this area. It seemed stupid and wasteful to destroy all of that habitat to me, but I could see some justification in terms of keeping woody vegetation down. However, yesterday the county roadcrews came by and mowed again. Mind you, almost nothing had significantly grown in the last 2 1/2 months. There were a few grass seedheads and the grass had put on a couple inches or two of growth. The crews certainly accomplished nothing in terms of keeping woody vegetation out further or improving visibility along the roadside. Now, though, we have uniform 3" brown stubble for 15-20' on each side of the road...except, of course, for the beautiful "blooms" of roadside trash with which the local low lifes have decorated our countryside. It was evidently very important to showcase that trash for the rest of us to look at all winter long. We certainly just spent large amounts of county gas money and time doing so.

This weekend I learned, too, that parts of the Kansas hunting community are now blaming the lack of quail on turkey predation. Folks, wildlife needs food, shelter, and water just like humans do. When you plow and mow and spray the living daylights out of the land, you literally plow and mow and spray the "living" right out of the land. Just where in these "pretty" brown velvet fields and 3" deep roadsides are the quail supposed to live these days? On the 2" tall grass of those pretentious "English country estates"? And what are they supposed to eat - the beercans and leftover McDonalds' trash I saw along the road this morning? Bare fields and grass stubble don't harbor many insects of any sort for quail to feed on. Yes, by late winter the fields will have wheat growing in them, but where are the birds supposed to live until then? The roadsides won't grow up appreciably until April or May.

It seems to me that we were given this planet as our Garden of Eden, but here in Sedgwick County (and in much of the rest of the country) we are busy killing off the "undesireables", sterilizing the world, as fast as we can.

Unfortunately, sterilizing is a nonselective process...and we've really been pretty ignorant about understanding how the life systems on this planet work. Then, once we do begin to understand them, in this country we seem to condemn that understanding. I've come to believe we condemn it because it means we have to change the way we're doing things.

But that's a whole new can of worms to open. Suffice it to say that I'm saddened and angered by the attitudes of the people in this county towards the land that supports them. Surely we can do a better job of understanding and coexisting with the world around us than we are doing.

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