What price success?

October 4, 2010

Iatrogenesis — meaning ‘brought forth by the healer’ — is the term used to describe the negative outcome inadvertently caused by any treatment designed to heal a patient. A simple example is the potential kidney damage done by drugs used to relieve back pain.

Let’s extend the definition of ‘iatrogenesis’ to include environmental damage caused by the pesticides that are used to control, well, pests. People are slowly waking up to the fact that their ground water, air and lives are slowly becoming contaminated because of the heavy usage of agricultural chemicals on the land. Remember DDT, Rachel Carson and bird eggs? What was seen as a boon to healthier crops turned out to have negative unhealthy side effects.

And, what was visibly obvious last week, is that a form of iatrogenesis has occurred even here at Windgrove.

I have been trying to “heal” the ravaged landscape at Windgrove for 18 years and, as the supposed “healer” of this land, have used over 15,000 plastic tree guard bags in the process (some trees get a 2nd or 3rd bag). The photo of the truck shows 1,750 of these collected tree bags in 14 large, orange garden leaf bags.

Each orange bag holds around 125 non-degradable plastic tree guard bags that were originally used to protect the young seedling trees from exposure to the wind and browsing animals (wallabies and rabbits). When the trees get sufficiently tall these bags are no longer useful and have to be removed, but because they have to be cut from the tree they can’t be re-used.

When I realized that nine truck loads of this size will be going to the tip (refuse dump) to deposit all those tree bags that were used to help heal this land, it gave me pause to think about the indirect consequences of my “healing” practices in that these bags will never, ever, decompose and will remain in the environment forever.

And the problem isn’t as simple as “just don’t use the bags anymore”. I tried going bag-less this year when neighbour Steve and I put up circular fencing to keep the browsers out and didn’t use any bags on the seedling trees (see blog September 5). I saved on the long term damage of plastic, but the tender seedling trees are now suffering a bit from the salt spray and, recently, gale force winds.

Yet, in the end, I suppose I just have to come to the conclusion that no matter what my good intentions might be, there will always be some negative outcomes that have to be balanced into the equation.

If nothing else, the removal of the bags provided Steve and I with more than a few positively charged moments by being out doors, in the sun, among the happy trees. Who could blame us, despite our causing some harm to the environment, to jump for joy at our chosen job site?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Martha Giberson October 6, 2010 at 8:16 am

hmmmm…possibly reusing the bags by cutting into strips and woving them into the wire of the fencing which would offer some salt and wind protection to the seedlings. It probably wouldn’t use up all the bags but it’s a start. Maybe invite a classroom of kids out to do the weaving as part of an environmental class.


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