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Plants and Climate Change

Talking Xeric in Albuquerque

One of the biggest water-saving heros in the Southwest these days is Scott Varner, who over the last decade has cultivated quite the crowd for the New Mexico Xeriscape Council annual conference.

The bad news is that you just missed the latest conference; fortunately, 400 of your green-thinking peers took notes.

Thanks to one of them, Susan Tweit, who both captured some of the highlights and linked to the TP blog. Other people you might want to know about are dynamo L. Hunter Lovins (Time Magazine 2000 Hero of the Planet) and landscape architect/ecological restorationist Keith Bowers, founder of Biohabitats, whose inspiring mission is nothing less than "the restoration of the earth".

Which brings me to my own meager participation in the conference, during which I made the observation that Sustainability is a very dicey assumption if we don't soon address issues of Population.

I can assure you, the idea that we need to live in places with more resources and do a lot less breeding did not go over too big. And so I invite you to step into the fray.

Q: If we continue to settle in regions where resources are limited (e.g., water in the desert SW), if we continue to procreate with abandon, and if we continue to believe we are entitled to what we want when we want it without having to sacrifice, compromise or just recycle the bloody newspaper (which is far from second nature here in D.C.), is it realistic to assume assume we can be sustained?



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I agree entirely. You see headlines all the time...habitat threatened by burgeoning human populations (on this very website today), energy use up despite more efficient appliances and power production, housing subdivisions encroaching everywhere in all countries...we should not turn a blind eye to overpopulation just because some people may not want to face their part in it. In a similar vein, I wish that every american would spend at least a year in either the Peace Corps or do a stint at a wilderness survival school to learn how much resouces it really takes for us to live as easily as we do. Then people would have enough respect to at the very least recycle and not let the water run. It only takes a small corner of our attention to do this and every one of us should.

Sent by julie | 3:46 PM | 2-26-2008

I work for a power company in the southwest, and see most of the plans for huge housing developments as they come in. The number of people that have moved to the southwest in the last 20 years is astounding (my parents included). What is more astounding is how many of the developers come down here from Minnesota, or California, or back east, and buy land to create these master-planned communities in outlying areas. Some of them don't even have reliable sources for water. Some of them even have lakes! I'm continually outraged by the lack of environmental awareness shown by people who decide the desert is a good place to develop, or move to.

Sent by LB | 1:51 PM | 2-27-2008

I've been "Blog Dueting" with Susan Tweit this week on Keith's lovely phrase "Regenerative Design". Here's my seed quesiton. What if we designed our lives and the life of our nation in such a way that the landscape of our inner and outer worlds renewed and restored themselves?

Janet Riehl

Sent by Janet Riehl | 4:52 PM | 2-27-2008

I passionately agree with issues of sustainable living (don't get me started on desert living), but I think environmentalists need to be careful when they start diving into the population issue. China and India attempts to control population haven't resulted in more eco-friendly polices. And the US has a very low growth rate, but is the biggest offender when it comes to use of world resources. When you increase the education level of women, you invariably see a decrease in the birth rate, but that doesn't translate into sustainable farming or efficient energy use practices. Also, consider the reasons for large familes in less developed countries (practicing subsistence farming), probably practicing what we would consider organic farming, not to mention that fact that a farmer with 10 children in a pre-industrialized nation is probably not contributing terribly to global warming. I think it's in the best interest of the sustainability movement to separate the two issues.

Sent by Steph | 3:48 PM | 2-28-2008

Sustainability is part of the holistic realm-interdependence of life. If we're truly seeking solutions about saving the earth and one another- we just may need to start there at the root, as uncomforatable as it may be...we will not prolong our lives or any others if we do not truly look at these issues as being intertwined. Thanks for the thought provoking question.

Sent by Terry Starks | 8:16 AM | 2-29-2008

Steph makes a very good point, I think. The problem of overpopulation and inappropariate land use are not necessarily causally related; it depends on the people and places you are talking about. With the example of the southwest, we're not having too many babies (America is remarkably close to the replacement rate of 2.1 births per child); we just keep moving to a place that can't support us.

Sent by Rebecca | 3:30 PM | 3-10-2008