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Down to Earth launches

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This new column will focus on environmental issues related to the village; it will feature contributions by several members of the community.

By Catherine Zimmerman

There is no Planet B. No escape possibility, no magical solution to save us from a world ailing from human destabilization of earth’s systems. This destabilization is a result of our extractive global economic practices — capitalism — and corporate agriculture. The ensuing outcome has produced out-of-control greenhouse gas emissions, rising temperatures, violent storms and habitat and species loss. It behooves us to step up the pace. In fact, we should be in a dead run toward the goal of stewarding, nurturing, protecting and healing Planet A, our Earth.

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In April 2020, the YS Environmental Commission, the Tecumseh Land Trust, Community Solutions/Agraria and the Glen Helen Association formed a team and launched a villagewide National Wildlife Federation Wildlife, or NWF, Habitat Community initiative. The call to action focused on restoring wildlife habitat in yards, schools, businesses and Village land. Despite the pandemic, the effort was a huge success and Yellow Springs was certified in only seven months! NWF was so impressed that the village was honored as one of the top-10 Wildlife Habitat Communities in the country.

As a community, our earth stewardship has begun. “Down to Earth,” a new monthly column, will concentrate on environmental issues related to the village, embedded in the understanding of climate change, the need for community resilience and sustainability, and the restoration of native habitat. The Wildlife Habitat team, and guest contributors, will pen the column with the goals being to raise awareness, educate, spark discussion and inspire residents to work with nature.

The natural world can teach us a thing or two. For the first 20 years of homeownership, like many Americans, I bought into the idea of the “perfect” lawn. No water bill was too large, no bag of fertilizer or pesticide too tiresome to spread, no power equipment to maintain all this too daunting. I was the queen, getting what everyone seemed to cherish — a great, emerald green lawn.

One June evening, I looked around. Something was missing. Where had all the fireflies gone? From childhood, I always enjoyed thousands of these twinkling critters every evening in early summer. I made a disturbing connection: I had killed them off by bombarding my yard with pesticides. How many other insects had I destroyed with my careless actions?

With this epiphany, my 25-year journey began. Fireflies had forever changed my life and land care practices. I started by simply saying “no” to a thirsty, pesticide-ridden, energy-sucking lawn. Now, the ecological value of a plant is my number one consideration. Is the plant native to here? Does it host pollinators or provide food and habitat? It’s not about me, nor just about beauty or seasonal interest, although native plants do have exquisite beauty and interest. Add to those assets how amazingly alive a space can be with birds and pollinators, once native plants are added to your landscape!

A big part of nurturing Planet A, our Earth, is protecting pollinators. June 21 through 27 was established in 2007 as Pollinator Week, and later expanded to encompass the entire month of June. The overarching aspiration of an entire month focusing on protecting pollinators by planting native habitat and eliminating pesticides is to recognize their critical role in balanced ecosystems and food production. According to the NWF, “every one in three bites of food you take comes from a pollinated source.“

Pollination is a simple transfer of pollen from one plant to its genetic partner, enabling the receiving plant to produce berries, fruits, vegetables or nuts, depending on their fruiting product. Although the honeybee is the primary animal for pollinating food crops, it isn’t just honeybees doing the pollination work. Flies, birds, bats, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps and other small mammals make up a diversity of critters that make it possible for plants to reproduce.

A very good place to start protecting pollinators and other wildlife is to certify your property as a wildlife habitat with the NWF. Our new Wildlife Habitat Community website,, has all the links you will need. Whether you register your property or not, the checklist located there is a great resource for ideas to add wildlife friendly elements to your property. For example, birds are not the only species in your yard that need water. Put out a shallow dish with water and marbles or pebbles for insects to light on for a drink.

Plant native plants! Ohio Native Plant Month lists native plant nurseries at — however, most nurseries carry native species. Just ask! Get the whole family involved, especially the kids. They are our tomorrow’s stewards and nothing is more important than teaching them how to nurture and restore the earth.

Cumulatively, human actions have degraded the planet. Cumulatively, even our small community restoration efforts are necessary to build back planet earth. Yellow Springs can be an example encouraging other communities to step up and be part of the solution. Remember Margaret Mead’s wisdom: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world — indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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