As you drive down your neighborhood, do you notice your neighbors’ yards? Are their lawns freshly mowed, lush and immaculate? Are their houses surrounded by clusters of flowers and bushes? Do you notice a butterfly garden in their backyards? Any birdhouses in sight? Do you see your own yard or green space reflected in these urban landscapes, or do yearn for something more? Douglas W. Tallamy, in his New York Times bestseller Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, will indubitably make you stop at some of these questions. In the book, Tallamy, himself an entomologist at the University of Delaware and author of Bringing Nature Home, makes a compelling argument for how each of us, from the comfort of our own yards, can contribute to the preservation of native wildlife. His book is an invitation to the imagination, and attempts to conscript each of us to his vision of Homegrown National Park, a project that will turn all of our collective urban greenspace into a sanctuary for our pollinator friends. In turn, such a space would bolster regional and local food webs ensuring our own health into the future.
Nature’s Best Hope is a book that, if a bit repetitive, is an accessible and critical read for all of us that have access to greenspace. Tallamy connects the present, past, and future of conservation by developing a sense of the trajectory of conservation of a field, and adapting it to our current reality. He lays out the toll that lawn maintenance has on our ecosystem (water scarcity, the need for industrial fertilizers) and paints for the reader a rich picture of the life that could be found if we worked to change our lawnscapes. He makes a case for endemic species and the ecosystem functions they serve; defends the butterflies, caterpillars, bees and birds.
Tallamy’s argument is straightforward: if we each took a part of our lawns and committed to restoring it with native species, we could create a corridor for migrating birds and butterflies to rest, and create permanent habitats for our local fauna. Restoring biodiversity enriches our ecosystem’s capacity to sustain us, and, in turn, our own quality of life. He follows his argument through with actionable items. He introduces keystone species, the debates between endemic and invasive plants, and even reveals the true reason that manicured lawns are our current default (it has everything to do with status, and nothing to do with practicality). His resoluteness in our ability to change this paradigm, however, is inspiring, and makes any reader want to go out and plant a tree. Ultimately, of course, that’s the goal. If each of us committed to his ask, we would come together as a community to support our ecosystem. The earth, and we ourselves, need it.
If you have a yard, know someone with a yard, and especially if you are part of a Homeowners Association Committee, this book is a must-read. Especially now, when we all have to be home, looking outside our four walls can be a great and impactful way of making change, getting our fingers dirty, and getting some vitamin D.
Deb Orieta graduated with a dual degree in Geography and Food Studies in the Spring of 2020 from Syracuse University. Currently, Deb works as the 2020 Communications Intern at GOMI. They are in charge of the blog and social media, and are excited to keep developing community throughout the different actors in the Gulf of Maine. When not thinking about social media plans, they are usually sweating under the early sun on John Terry’s yard, where they are heading a gardening project that will serve as an experiential site for exploring permaculture, a framework that helps guide the development of managed farming or gardening systems that emulates the natural environment.