Restoration: Invigorating Our Surroundings

I love environmental restoration the way some people love sports or their pets, and on this site I will write about restoration wherever I happen to find it.

Why do I care?

I believe restoration of our rural and urban and wild environments for the plants, animals, and people who live in them will help to solve many problems: food insecurity, the dwindling populations of bees, and pollution (including greenhouse gas pollution), to name a few.

Groundwork Denver planting trees at Bear Creek Park 2013 IMG_1591

What’s in this for you?

All of us know places that could use a little TLC. All of us benefit from reduced pollution—cleaner air, water, and land—and increased access to local food. And, because restoration usually requires a group effort, restoring the environment builds community. In short, you might make some new friends, but you will definitely have a chance to see a little piece of the world bloom.

And what is environmental restoration?

Recycling is the most basic form of restoration. In order to restore the beach, first we have to find the beach, which means removing the trash. By 2065, everything will be designed to be recycled, and as a result we will use fewer resources and create less pollution. That concept is called zero waste.

Reuse makes recycling less necessary, which is all to the good, because plastic recycling is really in its infancy and the wide variety of plastics complicates recycling even further. In an ideal world, we would package food and toiletries in reusable containers or in easily recyclable materials such as metal or glass.

Gulf Coast beach near High Island, Texas, with trash and long pipe IMG_8936

Other types of environmental restoration vary, but include re-wilding to create better habitat, controlling invasive species, planting edible forests and promoting farming in cities, and rebuilding reefs.

Weeding at McGlone Elementary for Groundwork Denver, Sept 2014 IMG_8172

Many people think of restoration as returning lands to some fabled pristine state. I don’t believe in that, especially because it often involves removing people who live there so that tourists can visit to look at plants and animals. That is a form of colonialism.

I think of restoration as a process that cleans land and water and air and makes them more functional. For example, one of a river’s functions is to provide drinking water to land animals and people. If erosion along the banks has clouded the water with sediment, then stopping the erosion would be a form of restoration. It would also improve life for the fish that live in the stream.

For thorough descriptions of a variety of restoration projects, please see Eco-Tipping Points. (I am not involved with Eco-Tipping Points. I just like the website.)

What you can do right now.

Recycle plastic, which is killing birds and turtles and whales in the world’s oceans. Recycle everything you can, and avoid buying the rest. For advice on the latter, see My Plastic-Free Life. To learn about plastic in the oceans, visit 5 Gyres.

Compost food waste, which makes up about 50% of waste in U.S. landfills. Here is Eco-Cycle’s guide to composting.