about this blog

I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

the value of flora and fauna

It’s a warm balmy night in the suburban garden. Apart from the cicadas, there is no sign of nocturnal activity. No owl sounds or sightings. No possum rustlings. Only the distant roar of traffic from the freeway. Last year, and for the last 30 years I would see and hear possums in the trees. Now it’s a rare experience.

'We hear much these days about the loss of species and biological diversity, usually in terms of diminished ecosystems, destabilized environments, and the loss of unknown physical resources. I suspect that the greater loss is of another kind - the way a local fauna links the concept of the self and the uniqueness of place in different cultures. The loss of non-human diversity erases nuance in identity. We are coarsened by the loss of the animals.' (Paul Shepard, American human ecologist)

The suburban homeowners who sanitize and control their gardens through paving, limiting flora to a small number of compliant shrubs and annuals, using noisy power tools and employing chemical warfare against insects, have succeeded. The built environment has expanded and the natural environment has shrunk. And we are all left the poorer for this.


  1. I totally agree with this sentiment. Here in the UK I get fustrated with all the block paved driveways which have added to flooding problems as the rain cant soak into the ground

  2. I was thinking that there was a movement of change in the young to garden have allotments and encourage wildlife well it does seem so talking to my daughters in their twenties and hearing what their friends are doing.

  3. What you said is absolutely right.... Collectively we can do far more by just going organic and be sensitive to biodiversity. ~bangchik

  4. Very well said! Here in the US we have several organizations that encourage people to plant native and plant for habitat in their gardens. There seems to be more awareness of organic and sustainable practices as well. Still, the sterility of the paved, cookie cutter, urban sprawl seems to go unnoticed and is sadly considered "progress" by most. But at least we have a start. I hope to see this new awareness become a more dominant influence in urban planning and development.

  5. Hi Catmint,
    It is disheartening sometimes, but I see so much evidence of people who care and nurture the environment - like you - that it gives me hope (unfortunately they don't seem to be living in your neighbourhood or mine!) Have you seen "The Troll in Central Park" it's such a happy, feel-good animation and my daughter thinks you need cheering up! See the link below:


  6. I couldn't agree more, Catmint. In the US, we have an organization, among many that encourages homeowners to make their yards animal friendly with easy to follow lists that include feedling the birds, no poisons, allowing brushpiles, having water available, etc. The national wildlife federation, http://www.nwf.org/
    is working hard to reverse the damage done.


  7. Catmint, You have said a LOT in this post. Consumerism - a term that describes the human condition of placing more value on our "wants" than our "needs." It is a very sad state of being. I cannot help but think that when each concerned person does what they can with what they have and where they are... and when concerned people gather together to educate and inform, some gains may be made that would at least slow the adverse effects... Thank you for your post. I'm sorry for the changes you are truly able to notice.

  8. well I am proud to say I have added a lot of native bushes for the birds in my riot of a front garden, keep an eye on my blog as I will post a picture of the havenb, mostly enjoyed by cats unfortunately. My two are house cats.

  9. Catmint, I agree with you, even here on acreage some of the blocks are manicured and sprayed with nasties to death. Some are wonderful retreats for wildlife. When I go for a walk past these places I hear many birds and I am sure there is lots of "night-life" around as well. A lot is lost, but in between there are these little pieces of heaven.
    On our property we have a HUGE hoop Pine Araucaria cunninghamia) This tree is home for many birds and other creatures. We have a tame Guinea fowl at least 15 years old, she sleeps on one of the lower branches. One late, dark evening I heard a terrible commotion and I went with the spotlight to have a look what was happening. The resident silver crane had a dispute with a ringtail possum. Many eyes were looking down what was happening. Mrs. Bentely sat stoic on her usual branch. It was great to see this habitat at night.
    You are right cassia fistula has an unfortunate ring...all the unfortunate Victorian ladies who were banned into their rooms..bad times!

  10. I have a neighbor who really bugs me. They have a contract with the chem lawn guy and also the pest control guy. I don't know how often the chem lawn guy comes, but the pest control comes every 3 months, just to do a preventative spray. I don't know what the deal is. I think with this family in particular, they just like getting things done. I think it makes them feel good. They are constantly adding on, changing things, installing things, fixing things. I think it makes them feel important to have some van in front of their house every other day.

  11. Catmint, there's a lot of thought in this small post. It's great to know of all the groups who are working to keep wildlife diverse, but I think part of your point is that most people just aren't exposed to wildlife, so they don't get a chance to know and love it. In the US in the early 20th century, there was a movement to get nature studies in schools. Wish that movement had lasted longer.

    Wendy, I wonder if there are any organic lawn care people who serve your neighborhood? Then your neighbors could have the thrill of having the very latest. You could emphasize the danger-to-kids aspect, and it's true: poisonous lawns aren't great for those who spend time on them. They could still feel important, and no more pesticides for you...

  12. Well, my kids definitely recognize more than 10. I was very proud when my son pointed out a tree at the nursery and said, isn't that a crabapple tree?


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