My last post was about a beautiful morning drive to work that I cherish every day. Today was no different. I got into the car, set my iPod to play one of my favorite Avett Brothers albums, had my travel mug in hand, and set off down the road. However when I got about five miles from our house, I gasped and slowed nearly to a stop. One of the features of my drive is the beautiful wildflowers that grow along the roadsides of Northwest Ohio. The vast majority of these are native species (milkweed, butterfly weed, blue aster, Russian sage, blazing star, wild sewing sweet peas, black eyed Susan, queen Anne's lace, cup plant, goldenrod, and more. These wildflowers created a beautiful array of colors, attract a variety of birds and butterflies, and even in the winter provide cover for the species who hibernate and winter here. It is one of the joys of summertime in the Midwest to see such a diverse native flower group any which way you turn, without even entering someones back yard.
What horrified me this morning was that alongside the road every wildflower within the edge of the road to the top of the ditchline, had been mowed down to within a half an inch of the ground. Butchered so low that it couldn't self-seed again; and that the now dead stems were clogging the ditches and waterways they had once shaded the morning before. At first I was furious. What need do we have to rid ourselves of such plant life? What purpose does this serve? I was formulating snarky facebook/twitter posts about it. But I also understand that the men and women who are employed by the county to mow during the summer are also those who plow and clear our streets during the winter. They are good people who depend on these jobs to put food on the table, and to educate their children. It is not their fault that they are tasked with eliminating native species for the summer in order to secure year-round employment. What needs to happen is for our county (which is fairly progressive for a rural community) to re-evaluate how we handle this. We shouldn't eliminate native plant life. It destroys natural habitat for many species who live here year round and who help to pollinate our crops. We should, instead, look for ways to utilize these employees in the warmer months to continue to move us forward in an environmentally sound way. I don't have those answers yet. But I am going to funnel my shock and dismay I felt this morning into looking for ways we could do better and find out who I could present my ideas to. I know...they're just flowers. But it is also burning fossil fuels, tax dollars, honeybees, monarch butterflies, paychecks, maintenance on mowers and more. We are better than this. Let's prove it.