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Ladybird Tribute

Prairie Notes:
July 12, 2007

Of her many contributions to humankind, I believe that Ladybird Johnson's commitment to preserving a healthy environment is her most important. Her vision was not just about wildflowers, but also of preserving the land they grow in; our rapidly disappearing native landscapes.

Bluebonnets were just a jumping off point for Ladybird; a way to draw our attention to the wildly abundant diversity of nature that was once all around us but is now in steep decline.

In north central Texas, her dream of replacing junkyards and billboards with trees and wildflowers ran into the brick wall known as, "PROGRESS". The Highway Beautification Bill she promoted must have bypassed the Fort Worth area. Our junkyards are being replaced by gas wells. Trees and flowers decorate billboards, touting the glories of gas drilling; not exactly truth in advertising or beautiful.

Through her gentle teaching and living by example, Ladybird reminded us that it is in our best interest to preserve native landscapes, that "nature nourishes us and brings joy to the human spirit", a timeless lesson many have forgotten.

The people of Fort Worth may be learning the difference between royalty payments and bonus checks, this driller and that that driller, but if they don't soon learn how those things impact their air and water quality, loss of native landscapes and neighborhood integrity, they will have learned nothing at all.

The New York Times called Ladybird a "determined environmentalist", a moniker often denigrated in today's world, but heroic nonetheless. I see her, too, as a gentle teacher who, by example, pointed us back to the garden, a lesson Fort Worthians badly need.