Nothing is wasted. Not in nature. Maybe that’s the true economy of life. We humans come in and make our habitat in our own image and then start throwing things away. I’m no great fan of yard work. I would just as soon let nature take its course, but if it did I’d soon have no place to live. Trees find their way into the cracks in the foundation and those flaccid white roots we see dangling from the ends of weeds can insinuate themselves into tiny places and slowly expand. Buildings left without maintenance soon begin to crumble. I’m reminded of this every time I visit Bethlehem Steel. Weather, plants, even the occasional raven, slowly tear down what human hubris has built. And it doesn’t stop there.
We set up a composting area for all those weeds, yes. A place where we could make our own soil. After three years it was pretty full and when I went to cut back the ever-growing trees and vines, I learned the bees had claimed our pile for their own. Not happy to see me poking around their home—not happy at all—they began to hover aggressively. I got the message. Nothing is wasted, not even compost.
Our species is in love with petroleum products. We can’t live without plastic. Looking at all the plastic litter around is evidence enough of this one-sided affair. Our plastics cause so many problems. They do break down, but never go away. They get eaten. Undigestible, they can slowly poison animals. Whatever isn’t recycled becomes part of us. Nothing is wasted.
Yard work monopolizes my weekends from May through October. This year it started in April. I had to mow the lawn in November. Really only four months to make it through without the endless cycle of birth, growth, death. Those who are worried that nature won’t recover from our foolish species haven’t paid close attention. Even as we live here the seeds find every crevice and life, life is irrepressible! Scientists try to tell us life is unique to this planet, but looking at its tenacity, how can that possibly be the case? The tardigrade can survive extreme dehydration, very high pressure, very low pressure, radiation, air deprivation, and starvation. It seems like the perfect space traveller. We try to make the world in our own image. We like to think our version of the world is the one to endure. Nothing is wasted. Nothing short of human hubris.