The Real Butterfly Effect

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Human Activity Reducing Habitat and Negating the Harm Caused by It

The butterfly effect, aside from being an awesome film from 2004, is the idea that a small change, such as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can have profound consequences. As that ripple of wind ends up becoming a major Atlantic hurricane, for example. Scientists refer to it as chaos theory, but we prefer butterflies to chaos, so we are going to stick with butterfly effect. A great example of this is found in Ray Bradbury’s 1952 short story: “A Sound of Thunder.” (It’s only ten pages long, highly recommended reading)

That short piece of literature covers man’s blunder through time travel, but humans are having a devastating effect on the world around us in real time, and with immediate reactions from every other sentient being we share that world with. Unlike the gentle flaps of miniscule, feathery wings, we come in with contracts, blueprints, and bulldozers, destroying vast swathes of forest and meadows, to reshape the land, destroying complex webs of biodiversity to build another cluster of cookie cutter houses, another strip mall, many vacant of tenants, built on speculative hopes of making a fortune in commercial real estate, more vapid tentacles of urban sprawl spreading like the canes of a noxious vine.

What humans do could be called the bulldozer effect, or much worse nomenclature comes to mind, but name calling seems juvenile, and is basically pointless. What help to the displaced wildlife are a bunch of bickering bipedal apes who created the mess in the first place? Well, those of us who recognize that there is indeed, a problem, and analyze our own impact: What could I, an individual, hope to accomplish against an entire mindset, an ideology that we are the superior beings empowered by, and entitled by our written contracts amongst ourselves, with the authority to reshape the world at a whim?

That, is a very good question to ask, and the answer is just as simple: For every one of us living on a patch of dirt that was once wilderness, (everybody raise your hands), we can all transform that living space we enjoy into one that we share with the creatures our very existence has displaced. We can rewild the space so it is enjoyable to all creatures who stop for a visit. By replanting with native wildflowers, trees and shrubs, and providing water sources, nesting material, by providing what humans removed in the first place: habitat.

Before we ever arrived, where your abode was erected, there existed a community- not one crisscrossed by ribbons of asphalt and concrete, rather there was a stretch of prairie, there was a hammock of trees, there was a cypress dome. There existed a complex, diverse group of plants, animals, fungi, and single celled organisms, each playing their role in the ecosystem, nothing going to waste. These communities existed in every conceivable form in every biome, before our arrival, that is. They still exist, even today, in fragmented patches, competing with invasive and feral populations of introduced species we brought everywhere we went. We see members of the faunal population as roadkill, or pests to call someone about when they are in “our” yards.

The honest truth of the matter is, we are in their home. We came in and wrecked the place, destroying the community, paving over most and poisoning the rest, then erecting street signs with the names of what used to be there. We are the singular species on the planet that is altering it the most, while simultaneously not participating in the equivalent exchange happening between all the other life on earth which ensures that nothing goes to waste. Only viruses act the way we do, consuming every available resource, then moving on to the next habitat. But unlike viruses, we have managed to overcome, adapt, and successfully colonize every continent, the sea, air, and even space. Unlike viruses, we have stood on the shoulders of giants and erected gleaming towers, monuments to our own hubris, shining concrete and glass obelisks honoring our disassociation from the natural world.

We have been gifted the ability to alter our planet in ways no other creature ever has had before, and we squander it, tearing huge gashes in the earth looking for shiny pebbles, mowing down whole forests to make green, paper rectangles to control each other with. With great power comes great responsibility, and we have been reckless and negligent with ours. We have caused the extinctions of hundreds of plant and animal species. Some we aren’t even aware of. We may have had a mushroom whose components kill every type of cancer cell go extinct, because in our relentless, maniacal race to make money, we didn’t stop to look around and see what the side effects of what we were doing. We have had an effect no butterfly could ever have dreamed of implementing, and we have done it all wrong.

All of this may sound like doom and gloom, an all inclusive guilt trip to the we really should feel bad about it resort in if we don’t figure out how to fix this, we will be the last species before we join the extinction land. It should. It is designed to compel you to action. The doom and gloom bit is not yet set in stone. There is away that we can affect change in a way that only humans can. Just as teams of men got together to radically reshape the land to exploit it, we can join a social movement to restore the land, to be proud stewards of it and not mindless consumers of it. What we are proposing is joining in a national movement of habitat restoration.

Think of it as a national park, except one you don’t have to spend hours driving to, listening to the kids fight in the back seat, endlessly scanning for radio stations as the miles roll by. This national park will be in your own yard, and your neighbor’s yard, and their neighbor’s yard, and so on, spreading exponentially, through word of mouth and social media. It will be a movement of education, of being closer to nature, of undoing generations of following the wrong path. It is a movement free of political partisanship or commercial gain, only a unified mindset of belonging to our mother earth. We need to dispel the age old ideas of maintaining a perfectly manicured lawn, and that we can just poison everything bad away, that is simply unsustainable, unnatural, and immoral.

Weeds are just plants growing in the wrong place, and every creature, large and small plays a role in the larger picture. We need to understand we are not admiring that picture as an observer, but as a participant, and should act accordingly. We need to collectively restore our habitats with native plants, reduce our reliance on fertilizers and chemical poisons which kill all the bugs, even pollinators. We need to have tree species which provide food and shelter for birds, a great biological insect control. We need to have water features so the wild visitors have something to drink, and celebrate their visits. If each of us convinced everyone in their neighborhood to treat their property as a wildlife sanctuary, and the movement grows, then we would have successfully reshaped our planet for the better. The seemingly small act of changing our minds as to what we can accomplish will in itself be a chance for a better tomorrow. For our children, for our planet, we can be the change for the better.

We are in the process of creating a document on just how to change your suburban lawn into a wildlife retreat, until then, tell your friends what we are doing! Share the word, we can’t do this alone, and keep up with Sandy Sprouts on our social media as we be the change we want to see in the world.

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