Choosing coexistence: Reframing the narrative around weeds and pests
In modern Western society, we tend to look down on the plants and animals that survive in cities as “weeds” and “pests,” but perhaps a change in attitude would be better for both human health and the health of our environment. Many of the insects, birds, wildflowers, and other living things that live in close proximity to humans can be thought of as having ecological value.
Dandelions, for example, provide food for many important pollinators, which include a variety of bees, wasps, and even flies. I respect the goldenrods, squirrels, crows, spiders, and others that share the city I live in, and I encourage others to do the same.
By seeing the cities and environments we build as ecosystems, with humans as major players but far from the only inhabitants, and by encouraging an attitude of coexistence and respect for even the smallest creatures sharing “our” space, we can promote better stewardship of our urban environments and our world as a whole, bringing at least a little more biodiversity into contact with dense human populations.
Children, and adults, should be able to grow with the wonder that biodiversity inspires and see weeds and pests as important aspects of nature, creating a cycle of better attitudes and more ecologically conscious and considerate choices. Even those with the most urban, indoor lifestyles can recognize: the Earth is “closer to home” than one might think.
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