Your children may view you as a superhero, but let’s be honest: you don’t, nor will you ever, possess super powers.
You can, however, be a mensch.
A mensch is a Yiddish word for a person of honor and integrity.
So, how can you defend your neighborhood as a mensch?
Fairly simply. Become aware of the ecosystem you inhabit. You are a creature and exist alongside other creatures—though you wouldn’t want most of them in your living room. Given the nature of the ways we inhabit the world we have displaced many creatures from their homes and introduced aliens that upset a delicate balance thousands of years in the making.
Take the following four steps to join the extraordinary league of ordinary (and natural) menschen.
1) Learn to identify plants and animals in your neighborhood. You probably already know some: robins, raccoons, the dandelions, but did you know the gray and black squirrels chattering around you are the same species? How many kinds of dragonflies hover near your house?
Start with something easy, like trees—they don’t run away while being observed. This inexpensive guide is an excellent way to start—and it’s something you can do with your family.
2) Once you’ve gained some familiarity with your neighborhood ecosystem you can begin border security and distinguish harmful illegal immigrants (of the plant and animal kind).
Ask for help from your local land grant college’s extension office in learning about threats in your area.
Invasive species threaten at least 42% of all endangered species in the U.S. and degrade the biodiversity of our local flora and fauna. Learn the characteristics and habits of localized species that don’t belong. Here’s one that’s especially pernicious in my part of the country.
3) The next defensive step is to extirpate aliens and plant natives. Work with local ecological organizations to remove invasive species and then restore your ecosystem with native plants. This will encourage the insects, birds, and other insectivorous animals to return to their rightful place in your neighborhood.
4) Encourage and educate. Start with your family and then move out to neighbors (the human ones) and fellow residents. Speak to locals about the importance of defending your neighborhoods against the biological pollution that is already there. Show people what should be there and what shouldn’t.
Not only will you likely increase property values, but you will help to create a healthy and balanced ecosystem which brings beauty and opportunities for recreation.
Of course, it will make you a mensch as well.
Previously published on STAND magazine
By: Scot Martin