By ERIC THOMAS
Courtesy Kansas Reflector
I like to consider myself an advocate
for the environment: someone who believes that climate change is a
dangerous and advancing threat. I fret that our government doesn’t do
more to encourage sustainability and alternative energy.
But I am striking some weak stances there with “believe” and “fret.” What about some action on my part?
The best I muster is minimizing the
damage that I regularly do to the environment. I choose a car that gets
good gas mileage. I run our laundry at night to avoid peak power hours. I
scold my son and daughter about not recycling.
Those changes allow me to stay in my
comfy place of privileged consumption. Those tiny actions minimize my
outsized first-world environmental impact.
Two Kansas podcasts this week provide
similar ways to begin healing our environment, rather than limiting the
daily damage we impart.
Together, the podcasts offer dual
serendipities. First, their timing is extraordinary. Both episodes —
posted on consecutive days on different podcasting channels — overlap by
considering how backyard gardens with native plants can foster monarch
The second serendipity is considering
the strikingly beautiful monarch butterfly. Its marathon migratory
pattern from Canada to Mexico over the course of generations of
reproduction is a natural miracle. Add to that the precision of their
migration (the butterflies take their cues from the angle of the sun in
Here are the two podcasts that
magically overlapped in discussing how our backyard gardens can be more
than a place to dump annual bags of red mulch:
- Wildflowers and Native Plants from the Flatlander Podcast, April 22
- Monarch Watch from the Uncovering Kansas podcast, April 23
The connection to Kansas for the monarch butterfly comes from its migratory path through our state, and also from the Kansas-based nonprofit organization that for 30 years has been working toward their preservation.
Chip Taylor, the founder and director
of Monarch Watch, connects the butterfly with today’s largest
environmental issues on Uncovering Kansas.
“Monarchs are important because they
are symbolic of how we are managing the planet and the effect that we
are having on the planet,” Taylor says. “The fact that the monarch
population is going down is troubling because this is one of the most
fantastic natural phenomena on the planet. We’ve got to be paying
“And the monarchs are telling us that we aren’t paying attention.”
In eight countries, Monarch Watch has created more that 38,000 waystations: locations where monarchs can find their coveted milkweed plant.
Taylor explains that selecting a
native milkweed plant is vital. Blindly buying any old milkweed might
mean inadvertently harming monarchs with pesticides.
“People who buy milkweed — tropical
milkweed in particular — from big-box stores,” Taylor said. “And they
take those plants home to raise a few monarch caterpillars on them. Two
or three bites of that foliage, if it’s been treated with these
neonicotinoid pesticides, those butterflies are curled up and writhing
at the bottom of the pot.”
The guest on this week’s Flatlander
Podcast also asks listeners to be mindful of what they plant. Brad Guhr,
an educator at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston, explains why we
should choose native plants.
Guhr says native plants should give
back to the environment in which they are planted as much as they take.
(This sounds like a grand ambition for us all.) He agrees with Taylor
that it’s often difficult to find such plants at national hardware and
However, finding the right plant can create a thriving natural environment.
“The more diversity that you get at
that plant level, the more diversity you are going to get at that animal
level, more high up,” Guhr says. “And I think that is where another
level of enjoyment comes in. Wanting to see the wildlife that gets
attracted to a landscape.”
Of course, this kind of
thoughtfulness about what plants we select flies in the face of the
weekend warrior mentality of maintaining the stereotypical suburban
backyard. It’s so tempting to race through the Home Depot nursery and
choose a plant that might survive in an empty plant bed back home. We
want to spend just a few hours to simply make our yard “look cute.” Both
guests make the case for being more mindful.
Eventually, even Guhr’s interview turns to the monarch.
“You bet I am going to talk about the
monarch butterfly and all of the lessons that it brings along,” Guhr
says. “Especially as it becomes more imperiled and we see these trends
of its reduction in our environment, it’s easy to sound the alarms and
try to highlight all of the different reasons that the monarch provides
Taylor sees the monarch’s symbolic value in prodding environmental curiosity and action.
“It’s a platform that we’ve got,”
Taylor says. “The monarch butterfly is iconic. It’s cherished by a lot
of people. And it gives us an opportunity to talk about a change that’s
When Experts Attack, April 21, 2022
In his interview with host Jon
Niccum, Valery Dzutsati, a visiting assistant professor at the
University of Kansas, draws a parallel between the Russian invasion of
Ukraine in 2022 to the Russian-Japanese war in 1904. Detailed
connections like these deliver what the title of the podcasts promises:
experts attacking. Dzutsaki says that the 1904 war resulted in the first
Russian revolution against the contemporary rulers of Russia. Will that
happen again? Dzutsati predicts the end of Putin’s power in the next
That Guy in Hutch, April 21, 2022
Chris Courtwright delivers a
behind-the-scenes tick-tock of how the Kansas Legislative Research
Department makes financial projections. While this sounds dry,
Courtwright’s voice rings with the righteous conviction of a dedicated
numbers guy. The wonky breakdown of economics and taxes will help
- The history of the grocery tax (he seems mystified that a cut hasn’t passed).
- The diversification of tax revenue in Kansas (it protects against tax revenue slumping during downturns.
cash in our state’s coffers (“I am telling you that there’s more money
in the Kansas state coffers than there’s ever been.”).