Monkeys and Weeds

by Green Deane

in Blog

Put five monkeys in a large cage. Then put a step ladder in the cage with a banana on top. Soon the monkeys learn to go up the step ladder and get the banana. Life is good, the monkeys are happy.  Now you introduce change.

You put a banana on the step ladder as usual. When one of the monkeys starts to go up the steps to get the banana you spray the rest of the monkeys with very cold water. That irritates them mightily. Every time a monkey starts to go up the step ladder to get the banana the other monkeys get sprayed with cold water. Soon they will not let any monkey go up the step ladder to get the banana.

Now you take one monkey out of the cage and put in a new monkey. When the new monkey, who has never been sprayed with cold water, starts up the step ladder to get the banana the other four monkeys beat him up. He soon learns not to go up the step ladder to get the banana.  Take out another monkey and replace it with a new one who has never been sprayed with cold water or beaten up for getting the banana. As soon as he starts  up the step ladder to get the banana he is beaten up by the three who have been sprayed and by the one who has never been sprayed but has been beaten up. Soon all five monkeys, old and new, ignore the banana.

In time you can replace all of the original monkeys in the cage, one by one. You now have five monkeys who have never been sprayed with cold water but they will beat up any monkey who tries to get the banana. That is the basis for “that’s how we do things around here.”

Enforcing a weed ordinance is like beating up the new monkey for doing something quite understandable and not wrong. But, since the creation of and reasons for such ordinances are forgotten, and how they were enforced have changed, now the extreme rules. The learned behavior is now how it is done.¬† So when you let dandelions grown on your lawn you have to contend with ordinance monkeys who want to (legally) beat you up but they really don’t know why they are doing it other than that’s how it is done around here.

In the journey to a better planet environmentally, not all of the battle is deciding to lead a green, plant-friendly, environmentally sound life. It also has to include confronting ordinance monkeys and retraining them. A dandelion in your lawn is not a bad thing, no matter what the home owners’ association president says or the local county code enforcement officer. They get paid, or are given the power, to (legally) beat you up for doing something quite natural and understandable. If they don’t stop you they don’t get paid, and or lose power.¬† Think cold water.

Consider my little front “lawn.” In 10 years no pesticides have been put on it. No toxic plants have been planted. Little water has been pumped out of the aquifer to water it. Little fuel or machinery has been used to upkeep it. It produces food for me and wild life, which it has a lot of.¬† It has also violated county ordinances by climbing the step ladder.

Consider my neighbor’s lawn for the past 10 years. Pesticides are dumped on it nearly weekly. Toxic plants are the mainstay where there isn’t decapitated grass, grass that requires much fuel and machinery to keep artificially coiffured. Much water is pumped out of the aquifer to keep it green. No wild life lives there. It produces no food for the family or local creatures. It is ordinance perfect. The banana that is left alone.¬† And yet, that is exactly backwards from what it should and needs to be.

The minor battle is changing your life to being plant and environment friendly. The major battle is retraining the monkeys.

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