Exploring greenspaces was a big part of my childhood. Granted, I wasn't as adventurous as I am now. However, as I walked in the wooded landscapes of New Bern, North Carolina, I felt a wonder that became addictive and deeply fulfilling. Grabbing dandelions, sucking the nectar from honeysuckles, squashing overripe persimmons, wearing Spanish moss--these are some of my earliest botanical memories. The feeling of spiky gumballs of sweetgum under my bare feet or slipping under my sandals saturates my memory. There I felt safe, I played with friends, and I made my childhood scientific "discoveries".
I used to take random plants and mix up these epic formulations. I'd rip up grasses, the leaves of random trees, and the occasional wildflower, and throw it all in a soda bottle with water. As the mixture fermented, I would feel like this grand magical scientist. I'd play with my friends, using branches as swords or wands. We'd hang out in the bushes of red tip photinia, or in the wooded areas, or on lawns.
I found an affinity with nature that seemed to run deeper than my friends and peers. I began to liken myself as a Planeteer. Back in the magical time that was the 90s, Captain Planet captured my heart and mind. The show's premise revolved around Gaia, the Spirit of the Earth, awaking from a long slumber to find the Earth in disarray. Seeing that the world was in need of champions, she sent out five rings to teenagers in various continents. These rings had powers related to nature, and the environment, but the teens themselves also had inner powers of courage, charisma and strength that assisted them in battling the enemies of the environment.
I guess the show made me feel as if I could be a hero on a grand scale in a simple way. The ending message, the Planeteer Alert, would encourage me to join the fight for the Earth. These alerts would cover helpful tidbits that would cover general environmentalism. I pestered my family about my newfound powers. "Ma, we got to cut the soda rings to save the turtles!" I pondered ways to save the environment, doodling machines to eradicate pollution from the Earth back when I wanted to be an engineer (I'm glad I got over that phase). Following the methodologies of the champions for and knowledge the environment from the 90's TV show, I began my youthful fight and advocacy for the environment. As I grew up, my love for nature grew with me. I returned to the green spaces of my childhood, explored new ones, and enjoyed the peace I found.
So here's the Planet Tier Alert:
Green spaces are under attack, and they have no voice to speak for them. Wooded areas are being mowed down for neighborhoods, where the flora that was once there will be replaced by unnatural lawns and mostly nonnative species. Swamps are overturned and buried under the floors of malls. Forests are being chopped down to make room for hotels. And why are there so many of those darn storage rental places popping up? How many more of them can we possibly need?
So I write to you in the hope that we can do something about this Planet Tier Alert. An abandoned Wal-Mart can be reused as another store or location. But what about the forest floor turned into streets or highways? It will never be able to return to its former glory.
So what's the point, you ask? In a perfect world, we, the friends of flora, would join together and fight against affronts to greenspaces. We'd find a way for housing that's empty to be utilized, and for companies to use pre-existing buildings for their grand openings. But I know that's a seemingly long shot. Can I ask you to instead focus on voting for those who are willing to at least consider saving the planet? Land is such a valuable resource, but we cannot forget our wild landscapes that may be lost forever. And I know I'm focusing this alert on plants, but our wildlife suffers as well.
But most of all we as people suffer! I grew up with nature as my playground. Nature is the background of most of memories! The trees gave us places to hide, and gather. The flowers and grasses were resources to make ticker-tap parades. Even now, I go into natural areas to find peace, and reflect. Greenspaces are the gifts we take for granted as we're zooming to our next task. But what happens to us when they're gone? How gray would our world be without the kaleidoscope of colors flora provides?
Let's make sure we stay knowledgeable about our greenspaces, and those who fight for them! This can start by taking steps to dismantle plant blindness. Plant blindness is a term that describes having a lack of knowledge of the different types of plants around us. All things that are green are not grasses. All trees are not the same. And if we know at least the common names of plants, we get a deeper connection with them. We can be knowledgeable about our local flora. We can learn more about whether a species is common or rare, useful or a pest.
We can continue by offering support to our local nonprofits and politicians who love our land. Sometimes a simple like or share can be great, but offering up resources can be fantastic! Can you donate time or money to environmentally-focused nonprofits? Can you volunteer with your local community gardens? Can you begin to make choices to lessen your impact on the environment?
Let me end with this: I took some videos of the areas I grew up in, and added narration about how they've changed and how they were important to me.
See more of Derek's videos on his YouTube channel.