“In the past, we have asked one thing of our gardens: that they be pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water.”
— DOUG TALLAMY
When I saw that Doug Tallamy had released a new book a couple of years ago, I thought something like, BEEN there, SEEN that, DONE it. After all, I had already seen him speak in person several times over many years with the first being February of 2014.
Not only that, I had read his ground breaking book Bringing Nature Home. In it, he made it clear the relationship between what research was showing about the loss of habitat and biodiversity. It also showed how important our own yards could be in improving the outlook for the wildlife that remains around us.
I also really liked and recommended his follow up to Bringing Nature Home, The Living Landscape, which he co-authored with Rick Darke. My in depth review of that book is here or you can read it on the Amazon (it’s the 2nd review).
So for some reason (arrogance?), I was in no big hurry to read his new book. I thought I got his point and really had no real reason to rush to read it.
I was wrong.
Instead of going in depth about the specifics of his research in his new book (he is a Professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware), he instead re-frames his research into a big idea.
A Kennedy sending astronauts to the moon type of BIG idea.
The BIG Idea
Tallamy proposes that we all commit to re-landscaping half of the lawn space currently in the US into productive native plant communities, which he refers to as “Homegrown National Park.”
There are an estimated 40 to 50 million acres of lawn in the United States. Consider that the Everglades National Park is 1.5 million acres, the Grand Canyon is 1.2 million and Yellowstone is 2.2 million. So those 3 combined is 10% the size of our country’s lawn. There is obviously some real opportunity here.
Tallamy suggests that native planting could happen on many types of land besides residential properties, including road sides, corporate campuses, golf courses, and right of ways. He calculated that there’s an area of land available larger than 13 states combined, including California and Texas.
And the really cool part is we already know how to do it!
We don’t need any new scientific breakthroughs to do this like we did with the moon landing.
It’s not about giving something up
We are used actions that help the environment requiring us to give up something. Whether it is conserving energy by driving less, turning down our heat, or whatever, the common call has been to do with less of something. The beauty of the Homegrown National Park, is that it is not giving something up but instead creating something.
We will not be living with less; we will be enriching our lives with more—more pollination services; more free pest control; more carbon safely tucked away in the soil; more rainwater held on and within land for our use in a clean and fresh state; more bluebirds, orioles, and pileated woodpeckers in our yards; more swallowtails and monarchs sipping nectar from our flowers.Tallamy, Douglas W. (2020-02-03T22:58:59). Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard . Timber Press.
You can create something amazing, steps from your door
Another great thing about this idea, is that it requires action by each of us. This is a goal each of us can work towards accomplishing and that fact gives me hope.
I know first hand how making changes that invite nature into your yard such as planting a couple milkweed plants can change not only your yard but also your perspective.
I was after all not that long ago, the same guy who sprayed pesticide whenever I saw a bug, planted invasive species like Amur maple and Vinca minor in my yard, ripped out common milkweed growing in my front yard at the displeasure of my butterfly loving wife, etc.
Now I have dozens of Butterfly Weed, Prairie Milkweed and Purple Milkweed that I planted.
Nature’s Best Hope could be the type of book that defines a new era of how American’s look at their property.
It is a book that can change it’s readers and if enough of us read it, the world.