The World Wildlife Fund recently announced that the natural world is losing 10,000 species a year, due largely to habitat loss. At the same time, we here in the United States have displaced over 40 million acres of native-habitat with costly, lifeless lawns. Astonishingly, lawns are the biggest crop in the US, but we don’t eat them, and much of that acreage goes to waste when it could be inviting back in the tens of thousands of essential and threatened species we have pushed out. The Wild Yards Project combines a powerful team of award winning filmmakers with esteemed botanists, biologists and native plant landscapers to generate media and local projects aimed at inspiring and educating people to transform their lawns back into vibrant native plant and animal habitat. One yard can save a species, but many yards can transform the world.
In the winter of 2014, my wife was 9 months pregnant, we had just moved into our new house in Northeast LA, and the yard was a bleak wasteland of ruined earth, rusted pipes, and dead trees. As kids who had grown up playing in the woods of New England, we were daunted but excited to see what “wildness” we could bring to our little lot in the middle of an urban area. The night we planted our first plants, my daughter was born. Three and a half years later, we now have two kids and a vibrant yard, dense with native plants and trees, watered by grey-water, the air alive with migratory and native birds, butterflies and bees, all less than one block from a 6-lane road, multiple highways and a busy business district.
The lesson, of course, is simple: If you invite the wild things back into your world, they will come. As two people with a combined total of over 35 years in film and television (I have produced and run series for Discovery Channel, History Channel, AMC, National Geographic, BBC, my wife, Sian Heder, is a writer/director of such projects as “Orange is the New Black”, “Tallulah” and “GLOW”), we began documenting the transformation and posting our progress on Facebook. People began asking about our project, just a few at first, but then a deluge of questions, “How? Who? Where?”, and we realized that people were starved for a simple, positive way to help the planet. Quickly we saw the staggering potential for the more than 40 million acres of lawns guzzling water and toxic fertilizers here in the U.S.
And so, the WILD YARDS PROJECT began. By combining world-class storytellers with some of the most esteemed voices in the native plant movement, our goal is to make films, publish articles and generate local projects that will inspire a movement across the country to transform every yard into vital native habitat. A new wilderness is ours to create, and, as entomologist Doug Tallamy wrote, now is the time to start “Bringing Nature Home”.