Dr. Alan Knight, member of Great Britain’s Sustainable Development Commission and a past Chair of the U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ or DEFRA’s Peat Task Force was interviewed in this week’s prestigious Horticulture Week Magazine. He stated that there will soon be a time when “peat is too precious to use in mainstream gardens and horticulture”. Knight postulated that the “Garden and Horticulture Industry is a natural partner to sustainable development” and I think most gardeners would agree with that assumption. There are however fervent pockets of resistance to reducing peat consumption, due in part to the heavy patronage from deep-pocketed peat pushers.
Throughout my PittMoss™ development I’ve been invited to speak directly to garden clubs, civic and fraternal organizations about my peat alternative and the destructiveness of peat extraction. From those personal interactions with home gardeners I understand two important facts about them. They generally do not know the source or origins of peat moss and they are totally amenable to considering alternatives, if performance, price and appearance remained consistent. They also are universally repelled by the idea of wetland habitats being destroyed by their own peat consumption.
One memorable interaction at a Junior League luncheon has stuck with me through the years. An elegantly dressed doyenne of the group step forward after my presentation and expressed deep regret at the idea that all the effort she put forth making her little patch of Indiana countryside perfect was leading to wetland degradation somewhere else in the world. Despite understating her “little patch”, which I knew was more the size of Liechtenstein, her sentiment and those of others gardeners have always encouraged me. The folks whose hands regularly toil in the rich earth of a garden plot get it! They are Dr. Knight’s practitioners of sustainability.
So why are we still draining wetlands to fill flowerpots when there are numerous alternatives like composts and coir readily available? Garden writers, television presenters and their parent publications and production companies don’t often recommend them. Instead they continue to push the use of peat in articles and television segments about container gardening or soil amending. If Gardening and Horticulture’s Fourth Estate journalists were acting as “natural partners” to sustainability, then I believe there would be more mentions of the alternatives, more coverage of the growing global peat controversy.
The reason they don’t mention any of that is because they don’t dare bite the hand that feeds them. Frankly Peat companies buy their loyalty from industry insiders by renting a lot of industry tradeshow space, funding academic research, and most importantly, advertising in magazines, journals and television productions. In recent years they’ve spent a lot of money on P.R. so that their fantasy narrative of sustainability and bog restoration is spread all over the gardening and horticulture world like manure on a field.
Those of us who can see past the purchased words know that peatlands make up only 3% the earth’s tertiary surface but sequester 30% of the planet’s carbon. We know that peat bogs help regulate climate change, filter and hold back floodwaters. We know that peat bogs generally add only one meter of growth every one thousand years. We know sustainable peat extraction claims to be a total farce. We know peat bog habitats, the world over, nurture unique plants and animals that cannot survive anywhere but perfectly pristine peatland.
If garden writers and television presenters can’t or won’t present those facts in regard to peat consumption, then I believe they will become more and more marginalized. Those of us who can’t be convinced of your peat propaganda are #peatfree now and forever. Producers of peat alternatives like myself will continue to go directly to the gardeners themselves, who, as I mentioned earlier, get it! If you’re free this Saturday come out and get a sample of PittMoss™ at the Garden & Landscape Symposium of Western Pennsylvania.