In England horse raising country, it is the belief that a pasture should contain no less that eighty different plant species. If it contains less than that number it is considered to be “in decline.” Maintaining land within healthy standards has contributed to the raising of prize winning horses in that country. These facts are contained in a book entitled Back from the Brink by Australian farmer and horse breeder Peter Andrews in which he discusses Australia’s problems with its deteriorating landscape.
Andrews speaks out in favor of biodiversity elsewhere in his book. All plants including weeds, he claims, are important. They add to the soil things that it needs to be healthy and productive. They are necessary to ecology. This is in contrast with the custom I have noticed in this country where the ideal lawn, for instance, consists of one kind of uniformly close-clipped grass, a lawn which is regularly sprayed with chemicals to kill any but the desired plant in an effort to maintain a “perfect” lawn.
When reading Andrews’ book, I couldn’t help but transfer his observations of plants and their worth to the ecosystem with our concept of the place of individuals in society. Our society rewards a member in accordance with its estimate of that member’s worth. It encourages and sometimes dictates that its members follow certain fields of study, be trained in one of a few limited occupations and follow a pre-designed route to what is termed success. In a sense, society “weeds out” its undesirables, using our money system to insure that this is done.
On the surface, that may sound logical and advantageous. By such a method, it is supposed, each member of society contributes what society needs and is rewarded according to that contribution. But is our society, like the person who strives to have a “perfect” lawn, heading in the wrong direction? Does our confusion of need and want and a misinterpretation of what is valuable cause us to concentrate on a crop that is inferior and actually detrimental to our well being?
Every person in any society has unique talents and abilities that have the potential of offering to society unique benefits. Under our present system many of these individuals and the talents and abilities they possess are wasted. It would be better for society to encourage and enable each of its members to find and develop those talents and abilities to the highest extent possible. By doing so, the society might discover it has prospects that are richer, more fertile and far superior than those of its present pre-ordained plan.