Why a Pollinator Garden?





Why a Pollinator Garden?


by Ruth Sheets, FPUPC Earth Stewards Committee


Why a pollinator garden? In particular, why would we want a pollinator garden at church? Don’t we have enough to do to keep up with the basics such as keeping the place functioning, teaching our children, and continuing with our mission commitments?


When I was growing up none of the churches my family attended had gardens. There might have been a bit of lawn and some shrubbery, but the flowers, if any, were a few scattered tulips and daffodils. Nobody was the least bit concerned that the church grounds were not a place where birds, bees or butterflies lived or visited.


Now, in 2022, the Earth Stewards at Freedom Plains have plans to make a rather large pollinator garden on church property. But why? Perhaps an explanation is needed.


The Mission of Earth Stewards


A good place to start is to ask how did the Earth Stewards Committee come to be and what is their mission? In 1990, the 202nd General Assembly, most likely after considerable and hefty thought, Bible study, prayer and discussion, adopted “Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice” (1) , a 118-page report which developed the idea that there is reason for Presbyterians to “till with care”, to restore the Earth and its habitants, and allow for justice of Earth’s resources for all. Racial justice, stopping pollution, using resources better…there is much to be done, and it is fitting for Christians to do this work.


The first 2 chapters of Genesis tells us that God put man and woman in the garden to “till and to keep it”. As stated in the “Restoring Creation” report, this means “making sure that the world of nature may flourish, with all its intricate, interacting systems upon which life depends.”


The report, which was written and adopted by our domination’s leaders, gave impetus to form the Earth Stewards Committee at Freedom Plains in the late 1990s. The Earth Stewards’ mission is to help restore creation at our church, and in our community, and in the world. It follows that we are led to take on many different projects because restoring creation involves many different aspects.


Why are Pollinators a Concern?


One aspect that the Earth Stewards Committee is concerned about is pollinators. We have read the many concerns from scientists who have studied the topic and from non-profits who seek to restore the Earth.


“I have never met a lonely goldenrod.” – Sara Dykman, author of Bicycling with Butterflies Image credit: Photo 216219074 / Bees © Key1234 | Dreamstime.com


Friends of the Earth (2) have told us: 


  • Bees and other pollinators like them are declining at an almost unthinkable rate.

  • One out of every three bites of food we eat is produced thanks to bees and other pollinators. Without them, we risk running short of more than 75% fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other important crops we depend on. 

  • Bees also pollinate wildflowers, which are essential for the survival of countless other species. 

  • If we lose our pollinators, it could mean widespread ecological collapse on a scale we’ve never seen before. 

  • It’s not just bee populations that are being decimated. Over 40% of all wild invertebrate pollinators are at risk of extinction.


The Xerces Society website (3) lists similar concerns, including: 


  • More than one quarter (28%) of all North American bumble bees are facing some degree of extinction risk. 

  • One of the biggest factors affecting all pollinators is fragmentation and loss of habitat. 

  • Widespread pesticide use further degrades habitat by removing flowering plants and poisoning pollinators.


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology4 , in a summary of a recent study of birds in the US and Canada, states: 


  • 2.9 billion birds have been lost from 1970 to 2018.


It is all very sobering to think that our propensity to cut down forests and meadows, our use pesticides, our valuing of lawns over other landscape choices where the wildlife can flourish, and our continued fueling of climate change has done so much damage to the environment.


What can be done?


“It’s a great skill we all should learn—to believe in miracles in our life.” – Anonymous Image credit: Photo 223862077 © Dave Nelson | Dreamstime.com

We’ve been told that time is running out, but that the situation can be restored. We need to provide nature with space it needs to flourish. We need to stop using pesticides. We need to plant native plants and those that have proven to be supportive of wildlife. We need to choose plants that can tolerate the climate chaos of severe weather. We need to listen and learn from the experts. And lastly, we need to help others learn.


I should note that FPUPC does not use pesticides, but we can certainly do more to help out the pollinators.


The Property Committee has set aside an area for a pollinator garden. It is large enough to walk through, and perhaps will have a few benches. To begin, we have hired an expert to guide with the design, namely, master ecological landscape designer, Karin Ursula Edmondson. Her design will feature mostly native plants. It will also include non-native plants that provide food to pollinators and birds that have shown to tolerate climate chaos such as droughts, torrential rains, and rising temperatures.


Once the design is finished, we hope that church members will help with making this mostly-native pollinator garden a reality. We will need funding and lots of hands-on work. We hope to start planting in the Spring of 2022.


It is right to take care of the Earth in the way that supports God’s creatures. Let us, with God’s help, create a garden that will not only support the pollinators, but will be a source of joy for our church community and give us an opportunity to witness a positive change in our environment, honoring God and his mighty works.


Sources:


1. "Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice", adopted by the 202nd General Assembly in 1990, http://pma.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/environment/pdf/restoringcreation-for-ecology&justice.pdf.


2. Friends of the Earth Action, “Bees Keep Us Fed”, Call to Action Letter, April 6, 2021.


3. Xerces Society, https://xerces.org/bumblebees, taken Jan. 21, 2022.


4. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/bringbirds-back, taken Jan. 21, 2022

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