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FOREWORD: Editor’s Letter on the Environment

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Down to Earth

Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment, a person’s back yard can be a pretty good microcosm of a world in crisis—ornamental cabbages chewed to nothing by hungry deer; a family pet that contracts mange from a fox forced from its habitat by new development; water, water everywhere—diverted to places it never was before.

“The issues of invasive plants and over-population of deer will not go away and, most likely, only increase in severity in the short term,” said Rick Colbert, executive director of Tyler Arboretum in Media, in a recent interview with Main Line Today’s Corinne Clemetsen.

Colbert worries about our region’s future—and so should we. “People don’t realize that our forests and ecosystems aren’t healthy,” he told Clemetsen.

With this month’s “Go Green!” feature, we hope to aid Colbert and other environmental educators and advocates in their efforts to increase awareness of the issues facing our area now and in the coming years. To start with, here are a few harsh realities that hit awfully close to home:

• Pennsylvania is home to more than 1.5 million deer—about 30 per square mile—a number far too high for sustainability. Acceptable populations per square mile have ballooned two- to 10-fold, leading to increased destruction of native plants by hungry animals. In local forests, regeneration has, in many cases, ceased and the ground floors have little or no vegetation.

• Throughout the U.S., there are 700 non-native plants and animals, and they’re overtaking three million acres annually—a chunk of land twice the size of Delaware.

• Impervious surfaces such as driveways, streets and parking lots prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground, causing it to flow over contaminated surfaces and into storm sewers. Everything—debris, chemicals, dirt, etc.—that enters a storm sewer is deposited directly into local bodies of water.

Yet everywhere there are signs that the Main Line is coming around. The Haverford School has ambitious “green” plans for its new upper school, and Kildare’s Irish Pub is switching to wind energy and reducing carbon, waste and more at all of its locations. On April 14, Kildare’s in King of Prussia is hosting a special event to coincide with the “Step It Up” National Day of Climate Action, inviting Gov. Ed Rendell and other policy makers to get in on the fun and encourage their constituents to do their part to cut carbon by 80 percent by 2050.

Aside from its educational programs, Tyler Arboretum has its annual Arbor Day plant sale April 28. Everything they sell is native to the area, and they offer tips to ensure the most enviro-friendly landscape.

And from the looks of my yard, I’ll need all the help I can get.