Have you ever heard the expression, think globally, act locally? I use it a lot to indicate that to solve the issues we have in the world, we need to start with our backyard. My backyard; one of the condos I live in, has taught me a few lessons through the years.
If you ask anyone living in a condo, they will tell you it is not easy to have so many different owners get along on the smallest of the subjects.
During this blog, I will use my personal experience at my condo and add a few facts that I have observed around the island to highlight how our day-to-day actions for a “safer” life might come back to damage it even more. I am not pointing fingers, sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know, but it’s essential to see how much we have modified our environment instead of letting nature take its course.
There is a beautiful garden around the condo, a mix of grass and plants with some manicured features. Sprinklers cover the area; they go off every other day in sections. They are set to function even during the Bahamian summer when torrential rains visit us daily. There is very little fresh drinking water on this planet, and I have a very high level of intolerance for the use of sprinklers, anywhere, unless the owner has built a cistern to collect rainwater to use during the dry times. The grass goes through seasons; I do not and will not understand why we need the forever green grass.
Furthermore, sprinklers in a tropical island? Don’t we have enough rainstorms and humidity as it is? The interesting fact is that the condo next to ours has the same green lawn and lush garden, and they don’t have them installed. Freshwater is limited and is at risk from human activity in the form of contamination. Yet, we keep using it indiscriminately, and we keep polluting without thinking about the near foreseeable future.
We then have the grounds; some areas have plants and trees, and the gardeners come in routinely. They rake till there is nothing left to rake but the bare sand. This action impoverishes the ground, so the solution is to spread mulch. Another one of those actions we complete as humans, I have very little understanding. In some places, raking leaves and mulching is mandatory by the homeowner association. Leaves fall to the ground, where they decompose and become food for other small creatures while acting as natural fertilizers and provide moisture to the ground (sprinklers, anyone?). Leaves are also natural temperature protection for the environment. Let’s then add the fact that we have an issue with termites.
If you already have a termite problem on your property, then adding wood chip mulch to your garden or yard will make the critters more attracted to your home. Since these insects feed off of the same organic material added around the house, it serves as an open invitation to explore potential gaps in the structure. Furthermore, placing wood chips or shavings around the outside structures creates a potential fire hazard. Let’s then consider the different “pests” we have to contend with. Some of them, I admit, can be a real issue; termites will eat the roof if not kept in check; however, there are solutions to that problem, like using a roof that is resistant to termites.
What about all the other creatures living in the garden? As soon as we see a foreign presence, we tend to poison it, including the grass considered a weed. I would love to know what has the poor dandelion done to people to be considered a pest. Why does the grass need to look all the same, with all the same blades, the same colors, and so perfect it’s unnatural. These actions solicit, once again, my concern for the pollution of the water table. Any poison we sprinkle, spread, shake over the grounds will affect the “pests” we are trying to eliminate and eventually wash into the soil and reach the water table. For example, one of the poisons used is against snails. Snails are part of the plants’ natural process, and if left alone, we have enough animals coming into the yards consuming them. If we poison their food, we will poison them, and in return, they will disappear while the “pests” will continue to thrive. I have observed the same issues in these islands with the land crabs; when I first moved here, they swarm across the streets during the mating seasons, now they are almost impossible to find. Exterminated because they eat the roots of flowers in the gardens, yet they were here way before us, and they played a role in the movement of the ground. We need to then look at where all the collected garden materials end up. Some companies use bins they fill with the removed garden shrubs, but many companies bag them in giant plastic bags. They then throw anywhere in the bush. Absurdity at its best, bagging compost material into the plastic to throw it into the environment. There is an economic waste, the use of plastic bags, and the environmental cost of discarding plastic into the ground.
According to many condo bylaws, people cannot hang the laundry on the balcony; they would always have to use the dryer. Unless in extreme cases (middle of August, during the rainy season with humidity at 100%), I prefer to hang my laundry than to use the dryer. One owner reported one of my friends for hanging a pair of shorts over her handrail in her condo. It shows how we put a concept of how something is supposed to look over the environment’s best interest and ourselves, especially in terms of a power bill.
So what does a condo have to do with conservation? Quite a lot, because we need to multiply these few examples by all the other condos and homes existing on this island and in other places to understand how one small action can have a negative effect in the long run for an entire area.
I have drawn some of these observations from my life and friends’ life in similar situations; the list is much longer. It brings to attention how as humans, we have modified our environment to an expectation of beauty that is no longer natural and have increased the costs we pay in the name of a “standard of living” that in the end affects us on so many levels, including our health. What are some of the observations you have collected about how we have changed our world to a standard of beauty that is no longer natural? Please share with us in the comments.