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Whistler 2020 on the Ground

Weed warfare to welfare

RMOW Environmental Coordinator

A weekend in Whistler and the sun has finally made an appearance. Birds are chirping like they're on Disney's payroll. Let's get on the grass - for some, there's no better way to spend a sunny day than tending the lawn.

As you gaze at your stretch of green, you spot the enemy, a dandelion mockingly waving its ragged leaves at you from the centre of an otherwise immaculate lawn. Those white fluffy fliers are about to fling-forth propagating persistent pestilence! This act of aggression calls for nothing short of war!

There seems to be a war on just about everything these days - a war on terror, on cancer, on drugs - so why not on weeds? If you are contemplating launching a war on weeds perhaps understanding the rules of this type of warfare is fair.

First: the law of proportionality, which dictates that the use of force should not be excessive. Take another gander at that dandelion - does it really warrant a bucket of Round-Up? Then there are the various conventions and treaties that prohibit the use of poison or poisoned weapons in war. As it turns out, Whistler also has a bylaw that expressly prohibits the use of toxic pesticides for cosmetic lawn purposes, so Round-Up is out of the question.

As an alternative, there are natural means of killing pests - homemade pesticides that are cheap and easy to make. They seem to be a more sporting way of destroying garden foes and their non-toxic ingredients make them easier on the Earth too. You can find non-synthetic pesticide recipes here:

But perhaps it is the urge to destroy aspects of nature that refuse to be tamed that is really at the root of the issue. How is it that the sight of a non-cultivar still triggers a primal human vs. nature response from deep within the psyche?

Some conservationists, permaculturists and sustainability enthusiasts have been debating this very issue - looking at whether the "War on Weeds" has led us down the wrong path. Some believe that the combative approach to pest management needs to be revised. Researcher and weed expert John Dwyer says the emotive language we use to describe weeds -words like "aliens," "invaders," "feral," and "noxious" - does not allow for an objective response to their presence.

There are plants - known as invasive species that may be harmful to humans and ruinous to ecosystems ­- which certainly necessitate a swift and aggressive response. However, many so-called weeds are simply those that humans have deemed undesirable for superficial reasons. Indeed, many weeds are actually valuable; aiding in bee foraging and contributing to sustainable landscapes by acting as pioneer species that stabilize soils, halt degradation, and open up opportunities for other less vigorous native species to follow in their wake.

Recognizing the ecological roles played by all forms of life and finding ways to coexist is really at the heart of sustainability. Sometimes it calls for a shift in attitudes rather than a call to arms.

A.A. Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh, said it best: "Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."  Perhaps it's time we stopped to smell them?

For more information on how to naturally care for your lawn and garden, please contact: Kim Slater, 604-935-8198, .