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RPC Eco-Letter 06: Sabbath and No Mow May

Sabbath for Wild Animals

More than just a day of not working, observing the Sabbath can reorient our lives. Norman Wirzba explores this in his book, Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight. “When we fail to observe the Sabbath,” writes Wirzba, “we miss out on the chance to experience creation and each other as God desires it.” Looking at scripture, we can see that the Sabbath laws are for all of creation: “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.” (Exodus 23:10-11) The land itself requires rest and that benefits “wild animals.”

No Mow May

One way we could give our land a rest and support wildlife is to participate in No Mow May. Natural Habitat Evanston is encouraging residents to hold off on mowing in May to provide habitat and floral resources for pollinators. Half of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators to reproduce. Supporting bees, butterflies, beetles and other pollinators can help preserve biodiversity despite threats from habitat loss, pesticides, and climate change. In 2020, many residents of Appleton, Wisconsin embraced the No Mow May idea and had amazing results. Researchers found that “participating yards had three-times higher bee species richness and five-times higher bee abundance than nearby parks that had been mowed.” There is some controversy over the benefits of No Mow May. Evanston city staff and council members are considering the effort, but have some concerns (our own 9th Ward council member Juan Geracaris is participating). This newsletter article from landscaping company Greenwise is quite skeptical. Success depends on whether you have violets, clover, and dandelions, or just turf grass. It also doesn’t help if you use pesticides and chemicals after May to get the lawn back in shape. I think giving our yards and parkways a rest, in the spirit of Sabbath, might be an experiment worth trying.

Transforming Lawns

An even better long-term solution is to reduce our lawns and plant native plants. In the long run, this would require less maintenance than a traditional lawn. Entomologist, ecologist, and writer Doug Tallamy advocates for conservation starting at our homes. Tallamy explains how we can increase biodiversity and support the food web by planting native species. Many insects coevolved with specific plants. Plants develop chemical defenses and insects specialize and adapt over time to survive. For example, Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed. In order to have a thriving population of caterpillars and other insects, you need to provide native plants. And many birds feed their young insects rather than seeds. So, if you want to help birds, or any local wildlife for that matter, planting native plants is a good place to start. I like the focus on our yards because it’s a practical, hands-on way to get involved. But it also has the potential to shift our perspective, to help us see that creation is all around us. The Evanston Environmental Association is holding a native plant sale this month. You can plant in the parkway, although this requires a permit in Evanston. To learn more about supporting pollinators, take the Pollinator Pledge.

More News and Resources

* MCC Stories: Adapting to a changing climate in Southern Mexico. A quote: “I ask every MCC partner we visit in Mexico what messages they would like me to take back to the United States. From San Cristóbal to Mexico City one request emerges: ‘Stop contributing to climate change,’ people tell us.” * MCC webinar: Gardening for good: Creation care tips for your backyard and stories from Bolivia * Evanston Climate Plan: The City of Evanston is not on track to meet its climate goals, but a task force is working on it. * Bell Bowl Prairie: This excellent NPR article covers the threatened prairie which I wrote about previously. * Mennonite Men JoinTrees campaign. Coordinator Steve Thomas spoke to our congregation for Earth Day a year ago. Consider making a financial contribution to support the work of planting trees.

RPC Eco-Letter by Jesse Miller 535 Custer Ave EVANSTON, IL 60202 USA

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