Monday, March 10, 2014

Cleaning the desert

Deserts are associated with wastelands, and so are thought to be suitable for human endeavors that no city or countryside would tolerate - garbage dumps, test grounds for military bombing, nuclear waste facilities, and target ranges. They are not treated like the delicate and ecologically diverse ecosystems that they are.

On a micro level I'm grieved by the garbage on our property, in particular the broken glass that seems to be everywhere.

The sun shines on it here in our driveway. I had thought of trying to scoop up the sand to sift out the glass, but there are pebbles of similar size so that makes that plan unfeasible. So yesterday I spent about an hour bending over and picking up every piece by hand. 

I felt very much like I was living in Mark Tansy's painting, Robbe-Grillet Cleansing Every Object in Sight.

Though it was a stupid and thankless task I felt so relieved to look down the driveway and not see glass shining on the sand. It was like taking a gaudy rhinestone necklace off of a great beauty.

Later I was looking up "broken glass" in the "desert" and came across a link to Restoring Land to Protect Joshua Tree National Park, and discovered the happy concept of "vertical mulch."
"Our teams planted 'vertical mulch' — dead branches and tree trunks that mimic native vegetation. Vertical mulch creates microclimates, areas which trap moisture and help native desert seeds germinate while discouraging future incursions from off-road vehicles. Volunteers then raked away off-road vehicle tracks, which crisscrossed the sandy desert soil. We also removed what seemed like a dumpster load of old clay pigeons, broken glass, relic electronics, plastic, paper, and other debris from canyons and hillsides."
Here's a photograph from a Bureau of Land Managment project:

We also bought and brought to Joshua Tree three Chinese brooms to sweep the tracks of "off road" or "all terrain" vehicles which criss cross our land. 

Strategic placement of vertical mulch and one rock dams should discourage motorized travelers (though some rocks may be bigger than advised - at least as big as an axle). What's MORE needed still is a way to teach people about the delicate nature of the desert and all it has to offer, so that we all become stewards of it.