Monday, April 18, 2011

Many Little Makes a Mickle

When I was a teenager I wanted to change the world; bring peace to everybody, take from the rich and give to the poor. Finding myself growing up I have to realize that I first gave up hope and now even forgot about changing the world. Now and then these old feelings come up and I wonder how can it be that this world is so unfair and encounters so many challenges. Can I not do anything about it? Then I get lost again in my own everyday little troubles and forget about it again. 

It started about 5 years ago, when my sister in law moved from Argentina to Germany. She started to learn German and to continue her studies in accounting. Next to it she also studied English and French. She had to acclimate to live in a new culture without her family with a foreign language. And what did she do? She went volunteering in a home for elderly people. I was really impressed. Comparing myself to her with my self-pitying, the world is so bad attitude I even felt a little ashamed. Immediately I had so many resolutions, but they all came to nothing. The farthest I came was to look at websites that organize volunteer work. Indeed it took me about 5 years to kick myself in the pants, to stop being a couch potato to start doing something.

At TSRI we have a Volunteer Group: Scripps Assists. I decided to join a group within Scripps Assists, which volunteers at the North Torrey Pines State Reserve. Because I do not believe in altruism I chose this project for completely selfish reasons: I wanted to be outside, I wanted to do some physical labor and I wanted to meet new people. But I did not only want to do something that I liked, I also wanted to do something which did not take too much time, so I would be able to do it continuously. The project at North Torrey Pines seemed to be perfect.

When I joined, the group was working at the Los Penosquitos Lagoon down at Carmel Valley Road. Drive north at N Torrey Pines Road the stretch along the right side of the road at the height of the North Torrey Pines State Reserve is the Los Penosquitos Lagoon. Widespread habitat loss in coastal San Diego County and the presence of unusual habitats has made TPSNR a refuge for a large number of plant and animal species. Because much of the Reserve is surrounded by urban development and bisected by public transportation and utility corridors, some of the natural processes have changed. There are about 390 acres salt-water habitat found in the reserve of which about 180 acres are impaired. For example freshwater inflow resulted in a loss of native species and an increase in non-native habitats. These are especially problematic, because they cannot support the sensitive ecosystem.

To reverse this development the Los Penosquitos Lagoon Project started 2.5 years ago. The goal of the project is to restore native species and to make the area self-sustainable again. We work together with a ranger and she and her team works on a 3 acres area in the los penasquitos lagoon. When I joined the majority of these 3 acres was completely covered with ice plant, this is a non-native and invasive plant, which you actually find along the coastline of California. There were hardly any other plants present. So the first goal of the project was to remove the ice plant. Just what I was looking for. Once a month I went out there in old jeans and a headscarf to get really sweaty and stop thinking. It is so relaxing

At the end of 2009 the whole area was freed from ice plant. When I am out there I hardly can believe how much everything changed. Most of the native plants started to vegetate the area independently others were planted by the rangers. The next part of the project is weeding. It is a pity, because usually we have to pull the most pretty flowers. Guess how much weed were pulled out from this area in 1.5 years? About 45 tons of pickle weed has been removed from this 3 acres site and Scripps Assists helped with that. Many little makes a mickle! Our ranger says we will have to weed the area for about five years until it will be self-sustained.

Now I try to be out there as often as I can. It is just beautiful. The sun is shining; it is quiet, only a few meters away different kinds of birds play in the water of the lagoon. Once a white egret came really close, only 2 m away from us, to observe what we were doing over there, it  was magical. I can nothing but enjoy these hours out by the lagoon. 

Little contributions matter, to yourself and to your environment. You might not change the world, but you change your immediate surrounding. It is Earth Month this month, take the chance and join one of the many volunteer groups in your neighborhood. It is fun, you will see. And remember many little makes a mickle.


  1. So when you were a kid you wanted to be robin hood.. at least you are still in a forest of kinds, even though it may seem more like an urban jungle. nice work weeding plants in order to get other plants to thrive. It seems laborious, but that was what you were looking for.

    of course, not believing in altruism is somewhat of an altruistic notion...

  2. well, with the right plants also many birds and small mammals come back instead of only tourists:)

    but yeah it is a pity, that all the bad weeds look so pretty...

    of course, not believing in altruism is somewhat of an altruistic notion... ?? why? I don't understand...

  3. You always inspire me. May I go weeding with you next month?

  4. our plant at home is infested with eeehmmm..... luizen! nu ben ik even het engelse woord vergeten. echt bah! you could perhaps come over and save our plant? that would be great!! :D

  5. maybe you should get a ladybug to eat the lice:)

  6. Hi Sylvieeeeeeee!! Very interesting reading you!! Yes, you remind me now that tengo que aportar mi granito de arena again => to do one's bit. Thanks for the message Sylvie. It is very challenging reading you!! THanks for sharing it.
    A hug huge, MC.-