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Only Natives on Green Roofs?

Monday, February 17, 2014

By: Jörg Breuning

In 1999 North America discovered that modern green roof technology is more than just an exclusive garden for a few wealthy people on top of a building. Experts understood very quickly that there are unmatched advantages of bringing back nature into locations where it was before.

With this enthusiasm, a lot of environmentalists and environmental organizations started to notice various opportunities to improve, simplify or promote themselves in many ways. Some of these ideas might sound glamorous, but the bigger picture concerning nature, is often disregarded.

In a previous blog post we reported about the ridiculous reductionist research of comparing reflective roofs with green roofs. Today we want to focus on the hype of native plants for green roofs:

Many Americans call a living organism native if these organisms have been on this continent before North America was discovered by European settlers. In their naivety, they have completely forgotten how the Natives have discovered and have lived on the land hundreds to thousands of years before.

So called Native people did the same as any organism; they expanded from their original locations to secure the species. While migrating and expanding over continents, all living organisms will change their environment accordingly. Microorganisms like bacteria or macro organisms like humans follow in the same footprints in evolution. The migration of European settlers did that as well and eventually became 'native'.

For most American people (as mentioned on Wikipedia) the opposite of native is "invasive". This discrimination is completely ignorant to the fact that something must be introduced first before it is invasive, encroaching, or just simply trespassing. 

It is even a bigger discrimination and ignorance of God's creation or evolution (whichever you prefer) when these people ( a lot of them call themselves experts) tell us that approximately 1,000 hectares of Bamboo scattered across the USA are a problem for when they call native species. However, at the same time, 1,000,000 hectares (1,000 times more) of genetically modified corn is not a problem. On top of this blatant discrimination, these 'tunnel-view' educated people (including LEED™) are pointing out that roofs are an ideal place for what they deem native plants.

Rooftops might be a stepping stone environment for plants that have been in North America for many thousands of years but when we try and set them up in a new place it is like a conversation of a narrowed down selection of species and disregarding the entire picture. It is obvious that history repeats itself - there are still existing reservations for Native Americans and we all know what effort this was, how discriminating this was and how much diversity, knowledge and inspiration we have lost. We are essentially treating native plants in the same way and that has nothing to do with environmental protection.

These so-called native plants must have a so-called native environment and require all the natural players (other living organisms) to thrive.

* Jeffersonia diphylla for example depends on ants to spread and what building owners want to have colonies of ants?

* The big family of Trifolium (stamped as a weed by nurseries) requires the stiff hair of animals to fulfill their natural calling - how many deer of bears do you want on your roof?

* Or shall we shoot all the birds that spread seeds from introduced trees?

The point of this blog is that any type of nature is better than covering the ground with impervious surface areas like asphalt, concrete of ground mounted solar factories. All our environmental issues are caused by the loss of natural environments. It is also much cheaper to protect these natural environments where they are and avoid relocation into reservations (such as rooftops). Simply by reducing footprints of man-made structures and concentrating human settlements to specific location allows these so-called natives organisms to thrive and to continue their journey of evolution.

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