By Carol Bolden
During our travels across America over the past six months, we’ve observed the tremendous diversity our country displays. With time in our pockets, able to travel back roads instead of highways, we’ve seen a decidedly beautiful country of buffalo herds, sunflower fields, meandering rivers, wild horses, flaming sunsets, wide-open spaces, majestic peaks, lush trees, sparkling lakes, breathtaking views, bald eagles, charming islands, and snow-capped peaks, testifying to its abundant beauty.
Observations about the state of our environment, though not scientifically based, do prove factual after a little research. In spite of its beauty, there are signs of an environment negatively impacted by man, its seldom-faithful guardian. While state and national parks appear well-cared-for, they face complex issues not easily remedied.
What we’ve noticed: Bugs and birds are diminishing at a tremendous rate. The bugs we remember as children that caked our windshields during travel, are scant today. So are birds. Karin Brullllard tells us in her September 2019 Washington Post article that North America has lost three billion birds in 53 years, representing hundreds of species. Birds, a well-monitored species, are like the canaries in coal mines— harbingers of danger. Today, they warn of a wider environ- mental dis-ease. Other creatures are thought to be fading, are more challenging to count.
Douglas Main tells us in his February 2019 National Geo- graphic article that insect populations really are plummeting. A new study suggests that 40 percent of insect species are in decline, among them Monarch butterflies that winter in the Chincua Mountains in Mexico, who have declined because of land-use changes, and bees who are facing collapse from a variety of causes.
Having spent several years as an amateur beekeeper, I’ve suffered the loss of entire colonies due to mites, pesticides, and/or inexperience. My loss was minuscule compared to what’s happening in the wider environment. Around 2007, beekeepers in the United States raised the alarm that thousands of their hives were mysteriously empty of bees. This new phenomenon, colony collapse disorder, led to a global concern. The U.S. alone lost more than 28 percent of colonies during the 2015-16 winter, a loss which has not abated.
Fruits and vegetables, important components of our diet, depend on bee pollination for reproduction. At least 30 per- cent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of all plants require cross-pollination to spread and thrive according to one gar- den magazine. Follow this train of thought to its end and you can see the precarious place our world is in.
Pesticides are being used indiscriminately, negatively affecting human, vegetable, and animal health. In several populated areas, we’ve seen pesticides used to keep weeds at bay. Most recently, we’ve witnessed the spraying of pesticides in flower beds and gravel areas near where we’re parked in Benson, Arizona. The pesticide used is most likely Round-up, one currently under fire for its cancer-causing ingredients.
“Excessive use of pesticides may lead to the destruction of biodiversity. Many birds, aquatic organisms and animals are under the threat of harmful pesticides for their survival. Pesticides are a concern for sustainability of environment and global stability,” say Mahmood, etc. in Effects of Pesticides on Environment from March 2016.
A 2010 study by S.A. Rogers discovered that pesticides travel up the food chain straight into our national parks. The study he reported found pesticides originating from as far away as Asia in eight Western U.S. national parks including Sequoia, Glacier and Rocky Mountain. As a global community, we have failed our heavenly dictate to care for the earth.
The delicate balance of nature is being challenged out of convenience, ignorance, greed, and neglect. God’s chosen gardeners have been weighed and found wanting. One day, this world will be re-made into its original state. As we wait for that day, let’s go the extra mile to take care of our world by educating ourselves on how we can best care for our state and national parks. For help, go to www.doyourpartparks.org.
–Carol Bolden is traveling through the United States in a motorhome with her husband Thom. Read her blog: https://outlookmag.org/off-to-see-america-traveling-by-motorhome/. She was communication assistant at RMC until her retirement in August 2019. Email her at: [email protected]