Updated: May 30
It’s hard to feel in control these days, and even more difficult to feel like one can make an impact in this world. Global pandemics aside, the greatest threat facing humanity, and the top discussion point in most forums, has been climate change. The term ‘climate change’ gets thrown around often and loosely, is so far reaching and nebulous, that it’s difficult to figure out how to address the problem.
But when faced with a problem of this scale and complexity I find it valuable to keep things simple. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Or for a more conservation-friendly approach, follow General William H. McRaven’s advice; “If you wanna change the world, start off by making your bed”.
In the simplest terms, climate change will result in a couple of general scenarios: we will either have too much water (extreme precipitation and flooding), or, too little water (extreme heat and drought). Within that there will be a wide range of possibilities. But for our purposes we will stick to the basics; water is the element that connects everything. If we fix our water, we can start to mitigate and curb the impacts of climate change. The good news is that every single person on this planet has the power to make a real difference and take action on a scale that makes sense for them. Starting with your garden and how you manage it.
Let’s look to the catchment of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park as an example, and what people in this area can do to contribute to its health.
But first, what is a catchment? Put simply, it is an area where water is collected by the natural landscape. Imagine cupping your hands in a downpour of rain and collecting water in them. Your hands have become a catchment. The outside edge of a catchment is always the highest point. Gravity causes all rain and run-off in the catchment to run downhill where it naturally collects in creeks, rivers, lakes or oceans. Some water also seeps below ground where it is stored in the soil or in the space between rocks. This is called groundwater.
Anyone who has a garden in this area can help improve the water quality of the Park by doing away with all, or a portion of, the highly manicured lawn we have become accustomed too, and replanting with native species. This will result in the establishment of deeper root systems and less compacted soil which will be better able to absorb and filter stormwater before it enters our precious waterways. This one simple change can greatly increase your impact on local resources.
Stormwater, unchecked and untreated, can flow overland and pick up pollutants, carrying them into our stormwater system which ultimately end up in streams and then the sea. Think of your lawn as a massive supercharged sponge filtering out nasties like sediment, fertilizers, and petrol residue. The better we can treat stormwater in our own backyards, the better off our waters will be. Not only will you reduce pollutant loads by infiltrating and treating water, you will aid in recharging our underground water resources. This is critical to keep the water flowing, whether it be in the neighbouring stream or in your tap. And if nothing else, this approach looks a heck of a lot better and is way more interesting than your average monoculture of non-native turf grass.
See you all for Episode 2 tomorrow!
Keep on keeping on,
Thirsty Conservationist and Wooden Journey Contributor