Letter to the editor: Another take on ecological value of ‘rewilding’

With great respect for the well-meaning editor, writer and horticulturist involved, I’m responding to the article entitled “Rewilding to increase the ecological value” in last week’s Arts and Leisure section.

We live in a tangled web these days of not only intentionally created untruths but, more subtly, reductionistic slogans, euphemisms, acronyms which slowly (or not so slowly) ooze into our habits and psyches to create an inflationary thinning of understanding, an undermining of complexity and a willingness to assume something big and good has really been accomplished when, really, very little has occurred at all.

First: it is unfortunately common these days to use the word “value” when what is really meant is “worthiness.” How many terms originally from the financial sector have migrated into common parlance and so give a completely different and much flatter strictly “useful” rather than cosmic view of a situation?

Secondly: “rewilding” is unfortunately an essentially meaningless term in today’s parlance which sounds beautiful, inspiring, enormously important, life-affirming and effective. As I understand things, only Nature is even capable of rendering a piece of land truly wild once more and if it can be achieved at all, given humanity’s profound mostly negative effect on our planet literally everywhere, the process takes thousands of years. Certainly, cutting grass less often in a few select unobtrusive places (so as not to upset a large-pocketed donor with a messy sight that might make them think Middlebury College has, literally, gone to seed), using a bit less gas and machinery in maintenance to save money, even planting consciously, wisely and sometimes with healthier-for-the-environment-whether-detrimental-to-humans-or-not choices can hardly be called re-wilding.

Writer Judith Irven did a gracious and admirable job in inoffensively articulating the uselessness (to put it mildly) of our obsession with vast groomed lawns, indeed lawns of any kind. But perhaps some things need to be said clearly whether they cause offense or not. Lawns are a blight — they’re at best unsupportive of even minimal life and at worst enormous contributors to pollution. Their ubiquitous existence spawns the creation of ridiculous amounts of eventual dump fodder with “labor-saving devices” and absurd pieces of machinery like leaf blowers, and a huge number of increasingly toxic-to-all-life poisons.

Finally, with great respect for college horticulturalist Tim Parsons, who likely had to lobby pretty ardently to get even this much agreed to by the powers-that-be, if there is any public institution that ever not “rewilds” some of their landscape but at least causes it to become less ecologically damaging and even a bit more nurturing of many different forms of life, it will not likely be one of our very wealthy, very prestigious elite institutions, one of which is about to launch a $600 million fundraising campaign, but some small out of the way raggedy college or rabble-rousing institution that is willing to just go for broke in service of life rather than “wanting to have their cake and eating it too,” as in this case: essentially giving up nothing, changing hardly anything, and sounding really swell — at the same time this big campaign is announced. In the same newspaper.

Marianne Lust


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