Cultivating Good Work

by John Humphreys

As a Catholic with a real passion for wildlife conservation, I work hard to do the right thing for the Earth. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, though, can’t it? Don’t all of us engaged in Creation Care feel inadequate from time to time? The short-sighted “do-it-the-dirty-way-because-it’s-cheaper” attitude of today’s society can be, frankly, awfully depressing. As is the eternal refrain of “looking after the environment will cost jobs”. How do we stay positive?

I think an important first point is that protecting the environment is Kingdom Work. So anything we do is worthwhile just like the smallest things we do for the least of our brethren. Secondly, even if everything appears lost ” I refuse to give up the fight if I know that it is the right thing to do. However Sisyphean it appears, sometimes.

Thirdly – and here’s a good trick – as well as recycling, using less electricity, walking more and driving less – start doing positive things. Things that will help restore, that will be a witness to others and a joy to you. So this is why I am such an unconditional fan of ‘wildlife gardening’. Whether you have a small patch of ground – or many rolling acres! – you can quickly and easily make a difference. Natural habitats for animals, birds and plants are being degraded or destroyed everywhere you look”.but our back yard can act as a compensation ” a giant, linked nature reserve.

So, where to start? I think the most fun and least expensive thing is to plant a few native plants that attract butterflies and bees. We’re talking color and beautiful garden visitors”and if you use native plants that are found in your state, you are helping the wild flower count too! They will tend to be easy to grow, less fussy than most in terms of watering, and if they are perennial they will come back year after year and save money too.

Swallowtail on Echinacea (© John Edward Humphreys 2011,

Swallowtail on Echinacea (© John Edward Humphreys 2011,

Obvious candidates include milkweeds, coneflowers (Echinacea) and Joe Pye-Weed (at least on the East Coast).

Of course, planting a couple of flowering perennials and ignoring all other aspects of wildlife-friendly gardening (use of insecticides, weed killers on lawns, places for birds to feed and nest, et cetera) is not a lot of help. More on that next time. But God smiles at any sincere effort.

You can follow more of John’s writings at

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