Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Paradise of Frogs

by John Hanson Mitchell
Moderator: Jim Siegel, FWS - NCTC

In his essay, A Paradise of Frogs, John Hanson Mitchell found that in civilizing his Massachusetts yard he had lost his beloved frogs.   When he realizes his mistake, he attempts to re-wild his property by putting in small ponds and letting the grass and weeds go.  After reading the short excerpt, have you ever tried to re-wild a place? Is this even possible given the American ideal is mowing, trimming and landscaping for a well manicured lawn?  Mitchell’s observations can serve as a critique of our national obsession with the mowed lawn. 

 




 
We can think that a neat yard is simply the natural order of things in a modern society.  Yet, the lawn aesthetic is hardly some pan-human value.  It’s existence in 21st century America is part of our English endowment from the Tudor and Elizabethan eras, only becoming common place in our country as mowing machines replaced scythes and grazing by sheep in the 19th century, with the aesthetic exploding in the 1950s as suburbs spread into rural country-sides.   Today the lawn is an important aspect of the interaction between the natural environment and the constructed urban and suburban space in the entire U.S., no matter the natural community or climate.

 
In a thought experiment that could have come right out of Jared Diamond’s Germs, Guns and Steel, what would be our national yard aesthetic  if
our country had been initially founded by another culture, say people native to Peru or New Guinea.  All I know is that we could have certainly saved ourselves a lot of time, effort and treasure, and protected millions of acres of wild nature, to boot.


11 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of the most depressing things about living in our growing suburban areas is the relentless carnage that frogs and other little creatures meet on roads bordering wetlands and other natural areas. Transportation planners should be obligated to make it safe for wildlife to move through our communities. If we do not take wildlife movements into consideration we should never be surprised that many formerly common species decline as soon as human communities expand.

Anonymous said...

Many of my West Virginia neighbors, have rewilded portions of their yards with concomitant increases in turkeys, rabbits, other small animals and songbirds. I tease my friend that it is like living in the Serengeti around here. It does mean you have to more drive carefully at all hours. I am just waiting for the wolves and mountain lions to show up to take advantage of the huge deer populations; Nature abhors a vacuum.

Gloria said...

I do what rewilding is possible within legal constraints everywhere I have lived. Even if it is only birds and rabbits and insects that come into our small very urban garden. Seeing hawks and on occassion coyotes right outside our window tells me somethings are happening. The bees, some years hundreds at a time, dragonflies and fireflies,cicadas,strange beetles and bugs, birds and rabbits nesting,young squirrels playing...etc... may not a wilderness make but it is better than the almost lifeless average lawn. At least it seems so to me. Not to replace larger wildlife spaces. We need to support maintaining as much of the wilder places as possible. But to buffer the urban sprawl so that diversity gets a chance.

Is this possible in our current world reality? Will laws tighten to suppress these rewilded urban habitats?
An educational process is taking place. Like the new property owner in the story A Paradise Of Frogs, many know all is not as it should be and want to make it right. Like the sound of spring peepers rising, the voices of those of us committed to make a difference will be heard.

Gloria said...

In a city garden rewilding has meant native plants that provide food and shelter,very little mowed area mostly for paths,rock piles and log edging,a watering hole for creatures, less fear and more curiosity.

Anonymous said...

Transportation planners should be obligated to make it safe for wildlife to move through our communities.-- And we ARE! Roads and other transportation infrastructure are vital to visitors and conservation managers at national wildlife refuges. They also can fragment habitat and compromise wildlife and driver safety.. Find out more in the September/October issue of Refuge Update

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