TIDAL LIFE | The Puget Sound Life – Will we choose fashion or substance?


Once again it has come to my attention that not everyone shares my obsession with all things Puget Sound.

I may want to spend my time wallowing in tide flat mud and letting wild roses engulf my house, but some Western Washington folks believe people have more right to the land and water than do birds, fish, animals, microbes and plants, and that we can, and should, control nature. It’s a standoff, but while we argue for our favorite lifestyles the Sound is suffering.

The fact of these different approaches was highlighted this week in a Seattle Times article, “How will Puget Sound respond to competing pressures?” As I read the piece and watched the accompanying videos on-line, one sentence stuck with me. “Developers say they must build more homes as our population grows.”

To me that statement makes it sounds as if developers have been mandated to build by some governmental growth police. But it’s really industry rhetoric. The growth projections are estimates, any number of events could change the rate of growth. And there are many ways to accommodate people besides building infinite new homes. Also, personally, I fear the Field-of-Dreams-Effect – if you build it they will come.

The Times article speaks to the need for development to balance with care of the Sound. Having been involved with low impact development I think this is possible but I also think, even as things are, we have to ask developers to step up their efforts. And if it’s true that the population will grow as projected then making sure that development is done correctly becomes even more important.

There’s another page to this story. Though developers and the way they treat the land have a massive impact on the Sound, once the houses are built it’s up to each individual homeowner to choose the way we live in them.

Many people I know take a completely different approach than I do. I challenge them to embrace the existing dirt, bugs and quote unquote, weeds. They roll their eyes at my tree-hugging ways. We laugh and try to accept each other.

Last weekend my family had a work party to help my mom and step-dad with maintenance on their house. The biggest project was yard cleanup, a task that taxed our familial good will.

I’ve known for a while that my siblings and I have different views of life. They live in the suburbs and like things clean and neat. I am a rural islander and my favorite garden book is called “A Gentle Plea for Chaos.” My garden answers the plea.

Half way through the day I discovered my brother had cut down most of Mom’s huckleberry bush, the last remnant of the forest that once graced the site, because it was “too big,” as if there were some optimal size for a huckleberry bush. I got a bowl from the kitchen and picked the crop of beautiful succulent berries off the discarded branches.

Style choices like these are market and society driven, it depends who we associate with in our daily lives what we value. In my neighborhood for example, flag poles are scarce. I can’t think off the top of my head if any of my neighbors has one. But from the ferry yesterday I looked down Columbia Beach and saw that there flag poles easily outnumber trees.

As far as Puget Sound goes these different takes need to be brought together by science. Neither my flag flying nor my flagless neighbors, neither my brother nor I, are ultimately correct in the style we argue for because none of us conducts our lives on an entirely scientific basis. Our choices are socially acceptable to our neighbors, affordable for us, adopted to make life easier in some way. If we were to decide to live so as to put no strain on Puget Sound all our lives would look very different.

For more information:

Times article – “How will Puget Sound respond to competing pressures?” By Michelle Ma http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/outdoors/2009679524_webpugetsoundvideos.html

“A Gentle Plea for Chaos” by Mirabel Osler is available from Sno-Isle libraries


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