Until There’s Nothing Left

Recently, my best friend Joan approached a man on a lawnmower near her condo building. She said, “Can you turn down the RPMs? I’ve read that lower speed is more effective for cutting dandelion stems.” He agreed and then told her he was preparing the lawn for spraying. When Joan said the community doesn’t spray, he said an HOA board member had authorized a lawn company to spray.

Joan is Earth’s guardian, a force of and for nature. She walks Cookie, her dog, through the pet-friendly neighborhood where dogs and cats are beloved family members. She doesn’t want Cookie exposed to harmful chemicals, nor does she want other pets, children, adults, and the environment affected by pollutants.

Immediately after hearing that the grass would be sprayed, Joan made inquiries, learned from someone on the grounds committee that the herbicide, Momentum, would be used. She researched and found this article about its toxic effects and then spoke with two members of the condo board. Neither knew anything about the spraying and both opposed it. Joan suggested they persuade two more board members for a majority. Subsequently, one sent an email to management and to other board members.

Joan sent an email to management that the RPMs were turned down and the lawn looked great after which she received a reprimand—no talking with the mowers.

She sent the following email to management and to board members:

A healthy alternative to Round Up.

https://www.planetnatural.com/product-category/organic-gardening/lawn-landscape/weed-control/

Monsanto does its own research and reports that their product is safe. This is just not true. Roundup is killing the bee population. It is currently being studied by the Cancer Research Center that is already convinced that the herbicide causes cancer and other illnesses. [The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined Glyphosate to be a level 2a Probably carcinogenic to humans.] When it rains the runoff goes into the Bay. This decision should be made by the residents of Dunn’s Grove and not just one person. I plan to print up flyers and deliver them to the residents.

Joan included that she’d place the notices at each resident’s door. The board president’s only response was that Joan wasn’t allowed to leave notices at entrances. She answered: “I send you a list of herbicide’s dangers and all you can say is don’t post notices????”

The next day, Joan heard that four among seven board members opposed the spraying as did residents with whom she spoke, so she sent another email to board members and to management. Spraying was delayed.

When I spoke with Joan later, she said Momentum would be sprayed on ash trees, but not on the lawn—a small concession, since the spray disperses.

This condo governance is identical to the US system of electing people to act in the interests of their constituents—and don’t. Representatives simply claim the authority to decide the risks others must live with—decisions based on dollars, regardless of the nightmarish consequences. Organic herbicides cost more than their poisonous alternatives.

I think of the final stanza of T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

When I ran this morning, those words looped for a while until a Jackie Kennedy quote interrupted: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” I focused on “whatever else you do”—whatever else you or I make a commitment to do. Or not. Of course, it’s essential that we don’t bungle raising our children, but it’s also imperative that we don’t bungle stewardship of our ecosystem. We can provide tender, devotional love to our children, but if we fail to nurture our planet, the whimpering will be deafening and then weaker, weaker, weaker, fading, until there’s nothing left to be heard.

Addendum: Just received an email from Joan. The lawn will be sprayed on Friday, July 17th —not with organics.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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