The folks at Crossroads at Big Creek are enthusiastic fans of science. They make a big deal about trying to base their decisions on scientific data. Recently there was a radio report about a lawsuit against Monsanto and the difficulty the jury was having due to the lack of good scientific data. Crossroads often wonders – how is this still even a question?
Back in 2013, at the urging of Pat Fitzgerald of Door Property Owners, Crossroads screened a film called A Chemical Reaction about the relationship between health and exposure to chemical pesticides. The documentary, which was nominated for an Emmy, was compelling. In fact, it was the inspiration for the Safe Lawn initiative in Door County.
Nevertheless, they were thrilled when Door Property Owners, Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, Sustain Door, Wild Ones, and Door County Environmental Council collaborated to bring the producer of the film, Paul Tukey, North America’s leading advocate for natural lawn care, to speak at Crossroads. Before the program, Coggin Heeringa of Crossrooads had the privilege to have dinner with him. During their conversation, she called him out on the lack of data.
He completely agreed with her, and explained that only a randomized double blind controlled trial would be valid. In this case, it would mean that children would be randomly assigned to either the experiment or control group. So say, for example, researchers would go to a thousand parents and tell them that every day for a summer, their baby or toddler would be encouraged to play on a lawn. Half of the children would roll around on a chemical-free lawn. The other half would play in grass drenched in chemical pesticides. Then, the researchers would follow the children for years to determine whether they experienced severe health issues or side effects. During the study, neither the parents nor their doctors would know whether the child was in the exposure or the control group.
What parent would volunteer their offspring for such a study? What parent would agree to possibly expose a beloved child to poison on a daily basis? Needless to say, such a study would be inappropriate. Consequently, we have no definitive data at this time. Yet parents do expose their babies and toddlers to chemically treated lawns. Is the neighbor’s lawn dandelion-free? Does grandpa use a lawn service? Many school-aged child enjoy recess on treated lawns or practice on treated sports fields.
But not at Crossroads.
Good science or not, in 2013, Crossroads’ Board of Directors unanimously passed a policy which stated that they “will not apply fertilizers or pesticides to lawns or gathering areas which include the Amphitheater, Council Ring, Rock Garden, and StarGarden. Pesticides are defined as materials used to control pests, including weeds, insects and disease.” And to this day, children play and eat their lunches on our lush, but dandelion speckled (and much smaller) lawn.
In Tukey’s book, Organic Lawn Care Manual, he quotes Dr. Elaine Inham who explains, “Everything on Earth is connected. Everything feeds on everything else… An incredible diversity of organisms make up the soil food web. They range in size from the tiniest one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa to the more complex nematodes and microarthropods, to the visible earthworms, insects, small vertebrates and plants… Soil organisms decompose organic compounds, including manure, plant residue and pesticides, preventing them from entering water and becoming pollutants. They sequester nutrients that might otherwise enter ground water.”
As they Celebrate Water here at Crossroads, they are proud host the Door County Environmental Council’s program “Safe Lawns” on Thursday , March 28 at 7:00pm. Patrick Fitzgerald will share ways you can make our outdoor spaces safe for children, pets and pollinators, and also keep chemicals away from the soil food web as one way of protecting our precious water.
Crossroads is a donor supported educational center made up of three preserves. The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay (just east of the highway roundabout) is open 2:00-4:00 daily and during scheduled events. Trails and restrooms open 24/7 and are free and open to the public.