On Are Things Getting Better …? (Part I)


There are myriad causes and social issues to get excited about. The environment, animal welfare, LBTGQ issues, race relations, the needs of the disabled, women’s rights, freedom of speech and the 2nd amendment are just the tip of the iceberg on what attracts our individual and collective attention.

But no single person can be equally passionate about them all. I will let others fight the battle over freedom of speech and 2nd amendment protection. I am a biological woman, but I don’t remember the last time I faced any problems because of it. My passions lie elsewhere.

Having friends and loved ones that are disabled, or are part of the LBTGQ and minority communities, I want to make sure they are treated fairly and with respect. I am extremely passionate about environmental issues and animal welfare. I didn’t choose this; I believe they are part of my DNA.

The problem I see with most social causes is the reluctance of the organizations that support them to admit it when things are getting better. Why is that? It goes to reason that the activist groups may fear that if they highlight the good, people will relax and stop caring. They may believe public support will slow when things start to improve. Many of these groups pay their executives high wages, and they need donation to continue doing so.

But for citizens who care, hearing the good stories is important. Those goods stories are evidence that what we are doing matters. It means our efforts are not futile and we are gaining momentum. I give to a small selection of conservation groups and animal welfare organizations that I know are using my funds wisely. I don’t quit when things are shown to be getting better, I get more energized.

Part I – Environment.

Recently I had a conversation with a gentleman about his garden. He told me that he killed a snake in it, and rats ate some of his tomatoes. He asked if I used pyrethrin because in his opinion, it is the best thing for squash bugs. I told him I don’t use any insecticides because I’m committed to sharing with nature what nature allows me to grow. He said, “I’m not willing to share, when I’m doing all the work.”

I could have mentioned that he doesn’t cause the sun to shine, or the rain to fall, or the breeze to blow, but instead I focused on his more direct issues. I told him that snakes are an important part of the ecosystem of his garden and that if he had not killed the snake, it would have controlled the rat population. He said, “Snakes must die. I put poison out for the rats; that’s quicker and easier.”

I suggested that if he was absolutely set on eradicating the rats, instant kill traps would be better because whatever eats the poisoned rats, such as eagles, hawks, owls, and foxes, will also die. He shrugged to indicate the collateral damage was of no concern to him. “Possibly your dog…” I added. There was a brief look of discomfort in his eyes that showed me I got in just a little bit. I explained that insecticides kill more than just squash bugs. They kill everything, including ladybugs, butterflies, and bees, all of which are necessary to pollinate the garden. “You just can pick the bugs off or spray this with water and …” His phone rang and he had to take the call.

That conversation doesn’t sound like things are getting better, but the reason it stands out to me (aside from the frustration), is that similar conversations are less frequent than they used to be. Now, most people that I engage in gardening specific conversations are abstaining from the quick solutions of pesticides and herbicides in favor of just planting more things, sharing with nature, allowing nature to work out the best way possible for everyone (human, flora, and fauna). I started a no-dig, no till, garden this year. It honestly needed one more season to it’s ultimate state, but I will happily harvest whatever it offers. I believe this is the most environmentally friendly way to do it, and using companion planting, encouraging good insects and sharing with nature, I expect good things next year.

To encourage you, here are just a few examples of how, environmentally, it IS getting better:

Movements like “no mow May” which enables the early wild plants (dandelions, vetch, clover) to mature into the food our pollinators need after a long winter, are gaining speed. I know many people who are planting native gardens, pollinator gardens, and putting in bee houses and hives. Ten years ago, I didn’t know a soul who was doing this. The wildflowers in Central Oklahoma are exploding this year. Wild native species of plants and butterflies that were rarely seen in the past decade are making a resurgence.

Frontage of wildflowers.

There is a growing interest among many (I am one) in natural lawns of clover and native grasses over those that look like golf courses. These lawns can be grown without fertilizer or herbicides, and they require very little effort on the part of the homeowner who are pushing back against homeowners’ associations for the right to use less water, no chemicals, and exert less effort on a natural landscaping.

Communities are banning the release of balloons as the litter that they are. The Indy 500 finally stopped this ridiculous practice a couple of years under pressure from the passionate environmentalists. It was hard for those macho race car enthusiasts, many stating they would not be bullied into stopping the beloved tradition, but they finally faced facts. Many of their fans agreed it was time. Now, if we could just convince young couples to use something other than balloons to for gender reveal parties. The words, “it’s a boy!” are completely biodegradable and non-GMO. If you must celebrate by releasing something, throw some wildflower seeds in the air – Texas Bluebonnets for a boy, Showy Evening Primrose for a girl.

Countries across the globe are making plastic bags illegal. Innovative companies are developing plastic-like packaging from biodegradable material like mushrooms and bamboo (my toothbrush is bamboo).

More and more municipalities are offering recycling in their regular trash pickup.  Plastic water bottles are now made with less plastic, recycled from old water bottles. I personally wish people would stop drinking bottled water, but baby steps. There are growing numbers of companies making shoes and jewelry and other items out of trash collected from the ocean and shorelines.

Environmentally aware jewelry wearers are eschewing naturally mined gems for lab-created varieties. It has become very “woke” to wear an emerald that did not scar the earth at all but was made inside a lab and is just as strong and beautiful as those that are mined by the underpaid poor workers in Columbia. The more Lady Gaga and J-Lo show off their lab creations, the more Nancy and Bonnie down the street are going to want them.

Research to improve the use of solar and wind power continues. I know, I know. The batteries are harmful to the environment. The large wind turbines end up in the landfills. I know all the arguments against wind and solar power. But I also know that we need to continue to research and perfect. The first car could not outrun a horse. The first airplane crashed and burned.

Things are getting better. I may not seem like to the people who live along the route of the next proposed Oklahoma turnpike. Some of those folks’ family land is at risk. Some have already sold and moved, some have been bought out by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. There are wildlife habitats are risk and our watershed from Lake Thunderbird. However, environmental activists and landowners have pulled together along with environmental lawyers, and have stopped the progress of the turnpike, for now. This is good news! Those involved in pushing this turnpike have been hurt in the pocketbook with the delay and forced to really look at the environmental impact of what they are doing. The community is speaking up. The community may ultimately lose the battle over the turnpike (I hope not), but the fact that the community is rising out against big money and governmental bullies means things are getting better.

A pair of Reikirt’s Blue Butterflies on Largebracted Plantain.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. Humans will not destroy the Earth. We are not that powerful or important.  Mother Earth will stop supporting us first, we will die out, and she will rise again.  Environmental issues are not about saving the planet, they are about saving ourselves.

Thank you to everyone who is helping to move the needle and making things better. Thank you for looking for the greater good over convenience, for daring to be different, for being passionate. Together, we will get there.

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