In this age of global crises - including ongoing conflicts, rising populations, and climate change – it’s hard not to fear for the future. There are so many curves on the road ahead that it is impossible to get a realistic view of what to expect. But in my mind, one thing is certain: the relationship between humans and Mother Nature must grow closer if our planet is to survive.

Going “Nature-al”

This might be called the golden age of technology, as machines are built to take over our day-to-day tasks and solve some thorny problems. But machines have not led the world back from the brink of war, nor have they caused us to steer clear of the life-changing nightmare of the warming atmosphere resulting from our reliance on fossil fuels.

It seems to me that, in order to help the planet move toward peace and balance, tending nature must move to the top of our priority list. Does this mean we have to give up our computers and vehicles? Not necessarily. It just means that the first question for each of us should be: how will what I am planning to do impact the natural world?

What Is Going Nature-al?

To me, going nature-al is like going natural, but only if one use “natural” in the sense of working closer to nature. Sometimes the term is used loosely as a synonym for casual or even careless. But in its original sense, it means in harmony with nature.

Like all lofty goals, going nature-al is much harder than it sounds. To work in harmony with nature requires a vision and commitment to a larger good than our personal or even national interests -- it requires a universal and global commitment to the planet, its plants and its animals. While most of us will not be in a position to shelter endangered monkeys or foster plant species on the brink of extinction, we can help the cause by tending our own gardens. I believe that this must be -- and will be -- the trend of the future.

Working Our Gardens

As we develop and tend our backyard gardens in the future, we can help the planet if we keep this goal at the forefront of our minds. Maintaining a greenspace around our homes can do so much more than just up the curb value,

The small act of installing plants in the backyard can create habitat for beneficial insects and small mammals. But putting in a vegetable garden or small home orchard can reduce our dependence on big agriculture, with its pesticides and fertilizers, and allow more space for organic produce.

In addition, when some members of a community set an example, others follow. Your neighbors, not to mention your own family members, will think and talk about your efforts and, with a little luck, be nudged into planting gardens themselves. This “earth first” attitude is not optional but necessary for the world to survive, in my opinion. That’s why I see a bright future for home gardening in the decade to come.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.