Help our pollinators survive and thrive

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Sir: Recently, I read about the United Nations scientific report on the dramatic decline in plant pollinators; butterflies, bees and other insects. According to the article, two of five invertebrate pollinators are on the road to extinction. This is not a surprise to anyone who has been around as long as I have.

I remember as a five- or six-year old boy in Wallaceburg going over to the park across from my home to pick dandelions for my mother. The field was a sea of yellow in the spring due to the dandelions that were growing there. Anyone can appreciate how happy I was to give this small gift, and I think she was happy to receive them because she actually put water in the vase that contained the dandelions.

This was around the same time when chemical companies and advertisers were just starting to tell us on TV that we needed to have shiny hair, soft silky skin and pearly white teeth in order to be attractive. They were also telling us that we needed to have sterile, weed free (boring) lawns in order to be a respected citizen and a good neighbour.

Now, I periodically go by that same park and rarely see a dandelion or anything but grass. I wonder how many years it has been since a young mother has received a handful of dandelions in Chatham-Kent, or elsewhere in North America for that matter.

As a result, our pollinators have a much smaller range in urban areas and rural areas thus resulting in their decline.

Often when dealing with environmental issues, we find ourselves saying, “why doesn’t someone do something about the problem?” Well, this is one problem that we all have the opportunity to solve. This is my call to action for all Chatham-Kent citizens. If every home in Chatham-Kent would plant a small three metre by three metre (10-ft.-by-10-ft.) garden of wild flowers, there would be many acres of habitat created for butterflies, bees etc. If you already have a garden, then dedicate a portion to wild flowers.

Businesses and industries that actually have some open property could do the same. Schools could add wildflower gardens or enlarge present gardens. This would be a great learning tool. I know some schools have “peace” gardens; they could be expanded to focus on pollinators.

The municipality could do the same on municipal properties. Vacant land can be left natural, just throw a few handfuls of wild flower seed on the properties and you have yourself a meadow. The municipality spend thousands on weed control which basically means not allowing anything to grow on the vacant land. If the land was left in a natural state, the money and resources could be used to deal with the real problems like phragmites that are absolutely devastating our lowlands.

Even people in apartments can grow wildflowers in containers on their balconies. Can you imagine an apartment with wildflowers on every balcony?

Farms could turn unused pastures into meadows or dedicate small portions of their yards to wild flower gardens, or turn some of those spots that are difficult to cultivate into natural sites.

If someone absolutely cannot grow a small wildflower garden, then perhaps they could plant trees that benefit pollinators like dogwoods, all cherries, or hawthorns; or shrubs like raspberries , eastern ninebark, currants etc.

Naturally, the best option is to do all of the above.

This is one option to help pollinators to thrive in the area but it will take an effort by the citizens of Chatham-Kent to be successful. We may not be able to save all of the pollinators, but we can each save some. If you agree with my ideas I would hope that you would respond to this letter to the editor and also contact the municipal council and even the provincial and federal government. There are many people in the area smarter than I am who may have very good ideas. You should also make your ideas known.

Al Farquhar

Chatham Kent

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