July 3, 2022

519 Magazine

Complete News World

Phil Jacobs, a religious ecologist fighting against the prairie

WATING RIVER, NEW YORK – If Bill Jacobs was a mediocre or less religious man, he would look through flowers, shrubs and thorny thorns around his house and see enemies everywhere. Because at all points between north, south, west and east and in between, there are hectares and hectares of meadows.

Grass lawns trimmed with military precision at the edges. Meadows where leaves are removed by roaring machines and frequently sprayed with pesticides. Beautifully landscaped lawns by nature lovers like Justin Camp next door to Jacobs.

“It takes a special kind of person to do something like that,” Camp said, nodding his head in the direction of the garden next to his home. “I live by cutting, it’s not my style.”

Jacobs and his wife, Lynn Jacobs, do not call the grass Jacobs grass, except for the grass on the back that Bill Jacobs occasionally passes with his old hand saw.

His house was seldom seen, and from early spring until autumn it was obscured by vegetation, which burst into color: violet periwinkles, avocado yellow, white, deep orange, crimson. They grow assortments of milkweed, asters, elderberry, mountain mint, jo-pi herb, goldenrod, white snake root and iron tree. Most are native to the area and are highly valued for providing habitat and food for migratory birds and butterflies, moths, beetles, flies and bees.

Jacobs is a Catholic ecologist who believes that humans can fight climate change and help shape the world in which they live. While many cities and suburbs grow native plants for the same purpose, Jacobs believes people need to do more: reunite with nature and experience the kind of spiritual transformation they feel in a forest or on a mountain or in your own backyard. . It felt like a close feeling to him, to God.

“We need something bigger than people,” said Jacobs, who worked for nature conservation for nine years before joining the non-profit organization that focuses on invasive species – pathogens that destroy plants, animals and native species. “We need a call outside, a kind of higher power, something higher than us to protect life on earth.”

That’s why Jacobs has been looking to spread that feeling around the world for years across the Wading River, a wooded village on the north shore of Long Island.

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About 20 years ago, he began collecting quotes from the Bible, saints and popes about the sanctity of the earth and its creatures, and began posting them online. He thought for a moment about baptizing his project in memory of Saint San Francisco de Aziz, who is known for his work on animals and the environment. However, he did not want to impose another European monk on American soil, but named it Kateri Tekakwitha, the first American Indian to be canonized in 2012, after converting to Catholicism in memory of a seventeenth-century Mohawk Alkonquin woman.

“Kaderi knew every plant, gathered food, and was very attached to the earth,” Jacobs said.

Three years ago, Jacobs teamed up with another Catholic ecologist, Kathleen Honke, to take another step forward. They also collaborated on a children’s book to be published in 2023: Our Homes on Earth: A Guide to the Catholic Faith and Ecology Department for Children) They have gathered other ecological Catholics and added to their group a tribal population project and two tribal women.

The site is non-partisan, operates on donations, and proposes ways to mitigate climate change and biodiversity decline.

“People must love the earth before it can be saved,” Jacobs said. So love is important. We do not do the end of the world. ”

There are now approximately 190 Santa Catari habitats on five continents, an ecological village on the island of Mauritius, a tree nursery in Cameroon, an atrium in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, and a suburban backyard in Washington, D.C.

Jacobs Garden is a primary and includes exotic plants that birds and insects love – also known as fuchsia – a magnet for hummingbirds and Lynn Jacobs’ Mexican sunflower field, which continues to grow. , Between the petals, the bumblebees are often dormant in the evening. In the back, the autumn leaves are not collected for the benefit of the insects left over from the winter and are a pile of fallen branches that are many years old, a home inhabited by generations of squirrels.

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But as Santa Catteri’s habitats grew around the world, their acres upon acres became more hospitable to wildlife, and many of Jacob’s neighbors seemed to be moving in completely opposite directions.

In nearby yards, old trees were cut down by dozens, thinning the green canopy of the neighborhood. Noisy machines replaced the racks, fallen leaves became disgusting, and outsourced landscaping, once common only to the rich. The popularity of pesticides has risen as concerns about tick-borne diseases have increased. King Jacobs began carefully moving eggs and caterpillars to special nests inside their homes to protect them from parasites and drifting chemicals.

According to Jacobs, the so-called organic or natural pesticides are questionable: if one substance is designed to kill one type of insect, they think it can infect others. Error People have never heard of the Apocalypse?

“If you’re a person who suffers to see things die, it’s very restless,” Jacobs said during a conversation in his garden last fall, raising his voice amid the noise of a leaf blower. A neighbor.

Jacobs, for his part, looks at all of the ornate meadows (he says the meadow is like a ravine, like a cult) and what he sees are ecological deserts that do not feed on wildlife and spirits. “It’s poverty that most of us do not know about,” he said.

Among Wading River owners, Jacobs’ affluent habitat reveals all sorts of responses, from indifference to chaos. Some neighbors quietly complain that rats sometimes join the creatures in Jacobs’ garden. Jacobs says they have invested in bird feed – and other neighboring gardens – and in new rodent-resistant compost bins.

At the camp, the nature lover maintains a respectful friendship with Jacobs, and no matter how extensive their garden is, the lawns require very little work. The other scenery adjacent to Jacobs did not respond to requests for comment.

Linda Cowell, who lives in the block, owns the dead tree, as lumberjacks usually build nests there, said Lynn Jacobs, “a kind of gallantry from the Lord of the Rings.”

From the beginning, McCaffrey was inspired by Jacobs’ garden, where he and Maxwell would take photographs as they passed. He and Lynn Jacobs started chatting and he told her he wanted to upgrade his house and grow Wisteria. Jacobs gently told her, Wisteria was so beautiful that it was an invasive species, suffocating native plants and robbing them of light.

“He told me he could show me alternatives,” McCaffrey said. “I never thought about it. She educated me.”

She gave him the seeds of her flowers and he planted them along with other native species. This summer, a pair of hummingbirds, monarch butterflies and European goldfinches flew between his garden and Jacobs. Now McCaffrey plans to greatly increase his flower beds, which, on Jacobs’ advice, add 30 more native plants and fertilize with leaves from his garden. He has two cars, and he wonders what else he can do in the yard to compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions.

“I’m a transgender person,” McCaffrey said.

He also began to notice the land around him in new ways. One of the favorite trees of your property is the carob tree. One day, looking at it, McCaffrey realized that he could distinguish a portrait of a woman in its beautiful branches, and now he catches it every time he sees it.

“Do you see?” He recently pointed to a tree. “A Dancer”.

Kara Buckley is a climate reporter who focuses on people working to find solutions and unusual stories about the answers to environmental crises. She joined the Times in 2006 and was part of the team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for covering sexual harassment in the workplace. caraNYTFacebook