Pesticide-Free Oregon City – Ten Years On

By Francesca Anton, NCAP supporter

It is May 2030.  Springtime has now reached the outer edges of its big burst of glory in Oregon City.   

As with so many other cities in the U.S. and around the world, residents in every neighborhood here are enjoying the fruits of their efforts after making a collaborative commitment just over a decade ago to develop native garden habitat and discontinue the use of toxic pesticides at home, inside and out.   

Despite the calamities of global climate change making deep challenges to every aspect of life here, citizens have decided they can, at least, stand up against large corporate greed and refuse to bring long-known toxics into their homes and gardens, parks and other civic spaces. The acreage in our city once choking with invasive plant species have been eliminated with volunteers working with city staff. People put their gloves on, brought out their children, and started building beautiful, rich soil, filled with microbial life (thanks in part to the chickens all over the neighborhoods). Knee pads for all now with gardens teeming with both native plants, mulched with good wood chips, and edible fruits and vegetables…of course along with all the beautiful little touches of summer color we love (can’t give up our roses! At least we no longer spray them with toxics now…we feed and water them instead!).  

One of the most thrilling aspects of this decade-long commitment to stop using pesticides in Oregon City neighborhoods is the proliferation of the birds coming back to grace the air with song.  Over the last few years several residents took up the task of making beautiful bird nest boxes to decorate the quickly growing canopy trees that were carefully planted around the city to fill in the ‘bare spots’, so crucial now to our hotter and drier summer weather. The neighborhoods are filled with bird song and nests as children learn the needs and habits of our feathered friends (it helped to greatly reduce the number of outside cats, too).

Lawns have almost completely disappeared, as they needed far too many toxics to keep green; instead children have planted a wide variety of flowering perennials that are bringing in thousands of native bees to the neighborhood.  It is now common for residents to see the return of native baby skinks moving under the ferns and other native plants flowering everywhere this time of year, along with the little native snakes coming out to sun, hoping not to be found by a concerned hen roaming the garden (they help keep the ‘bad’ bugs out of the garden!).

How pleasant the evenings and weekend days are now, with residents outside talking to each other, working together to create a city of beauty and health, cultivating the sense of wonder toward the world we are all born with.  Much better than a decade ago, when we ran down to Home Depot or up to Fred Meyer for chemicals we thought ‘convenient’ but were killing us with asthma, cancer, and other illnesses, especially in our young people. Our air, our water, our land, is now healthier for everyone without the poisons we used to use so freely.

U.S. companies like Monsanto and Dow/Dupont, who lied to us for years about their toxic chemicals so they could reap huge profits and control our elected representatives with their lobbying efforts, while poisoning our communities every day, have been forced to cease and desist making these toxics forever. It has been a good journey, neighbor helping neighbor to problem solve and change our old ways inside and outside our homes, so that our city both looks and feels far more ‘loved’ than in did a decade ago.

Many residents have claimed their children are noticeably healthier, both in body and mind; perhaps this is the most deeply precious aspect to the change in our choices and habits of all.  

Thanks to programs like Pesticide-Free Neighborhoods Oregon City and Audubon Club’s Backyard Habitat Certification Program to assist cities like ours, we have made real progress toward a more livable, and civil, city.  With the blessing of our elected civic leaders in the spring of 2019, many of us never believed this positive change in our lives was probable or possible. But here we are. We’ve done it, and not alone. Now, waking to the sweet smell of spring blossoms in 2030 or the happy crowing of a rooster, our beautiful and toxic-free neighborhoods keep us moving forward with hope and health.  Despite all the hard work, we can now see real and positive change – the flowers smell better than ever!

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