Homebodies - Troublesome findings


By Rita Friesen

Neepawa Banner & Press

A few days ago some of the churches commemorated Earth Day. It was/is fitting to pause and reflect on this earth on which we live. Some of my research revealed unsettling and uncomfortable facts.

In the summer of 2017 my daughter-in-law and I spent several days in Iceland before continuing to France. As we disembarked we noticed the seas of lavender coloured flowers, in the ditches, on the hillsides, everywhere. Noting their beauty, we mentioned it to our guide on one of our excursions. Back in the mid 1940’s the lupine was imported to the country. Knowing that the plant’s roots spread quickly, the plan was to use them to stabilise the shallow topsoil- most of Iceland is basically volcanic ash. What was not known was that not only do the plants have a wonderfully strong root system, they produce a toxin that inhibits the growth of all other vegetation in the immediate vicinity. The land that had been swept bare of trees years ago for housing, was now overcome by lupines. The beautiful plant is spreading steadily, moving further and further up hills and inland. And they have not yet found a way to stop it.

And then we have the Asian lady beetle.  The not welcome lady bug, that is stinky, and bites, and is very prolific! The species was purposefully released in both the United States and Canadian Maritimes through the ’80s, although entomologists now also say that trade may have played a role. The beetles arrived accidentally at several seaports before the first major population was discovered in Louisiana in 1988. The bugs have since spread into Manitoba. The species was never intentionally released in Manitoba, countering the common view that farmers initially brought in the bugs for pest control. Yes, they consume an incredible number of aphids, but, according to one report, there has been no pesticide found to control them. There were a few hiding between my window frames, but I don’t have to keep the vacuum at the ready – yet.

What does concern me is the overuse of plastics. They have a place and a purpose. When I walk I note bags caught up in tree branches, crushed against fence lines, and floating in the water. The evening news addressed the problem, showing a drinking straw being removed from a turtle’s nostril, and the contents of a deceased sperm whale including pounds of plastic, clogging the digestive system, and a scuba diver floating amid a sea of plastic garbage. The United Church publication, The Observer, did an in-depth series of articles on “The Plastic Menace”. Worth the read. “Canada is the 3rd highest producer of municipal waste per capita. 720 kilograms of waste was generated by every Canadian in 2012. 12 per cent or less of plastic waste is recycled in Canada. 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste is exported from Canada annually.” Those are scary numbers.

Makes me wonder how I can make a difference. I am learning to carry non-plastic bags with me when I go shopping, and gently ask for no bag when I make a simple purchase. We/I have a long way to go….