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GOING WILD WITH NATIVES: 30x30, Supporting Health & Biodiversity

By Susan Lewitt, for Let's Talk Plants! December 2021.

Private native garden from the CNPS Native Garden Tour in the North County area. Photo by Susan Lewitt.

In the distant past, the earth was brimming with countless species in diverse habitats including lush forests, sparkling grasslands, and waterways teaming with life. Later, a new species evolved, which was a bit more inventive and adaptable than most others. This species started making changes that would help it survive, progress beyond measure, increase beyond necessity, and put many other life forms in peril. This species, of course, was us.

There have been extinction events before humans graced this planet. The world had many periods of instability until our planet settled into the climate patterns we rely on today. Unfortunately, we humans are changing the world, causing it to shift away from the consistency in which we live. This puts more plants, and animals, including humanity, at risk of extinction. How?

Humans are putting the world in peril by wastefully overusing resources, not being mindful of the conditions they were creating, overdeveloping land without regard for the consequences, and prioritizing wealth over true needs of health and wellbeing. Our activities since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution have added increasing amounts of greenhouse gases to the thin atmosphere.

“While the US has some of the world’s strongest environmental policies, its species, ecosystems, and natural spaces are in rapid decline. About 12,000 wildlife species … (need) … protection to avoid the threat of extinction … Nature in America is in trouble. ” - The Biden Administration

Other threats, especially to biodiversity, are invasive species. Some of these have been purposely introduced through agriculture and horticulture, and others have landed in novel places purely by accident. Some are non-natural hybrids, not found in nature, and others are natives from distant lands. These alien species escape cultivation, crowd out the native species, and take over natural spaces, sometimes forming monocultures.

30x30 can make a significant difference. 30x30 refers to the efforts by several countries to have 30% of Planet Earth protected in an indigenous natural state by 2030. This gives all species, including threatened and endangered species, a chance to thrive. This planet and its life forms depend on biodiversity to survive, which would be ensured by most of the world’s leading countries pledging action regarding “30x30”.

Native plant species around Lake Murray. Photo by Susan Lewitt.

As a person interested in horticulture and a member of humanity, you can contribute to this goal. There are many ways to make a difference. You may contribute to this program to regain a stable biodiversity in San Diego just by dedicating part of your garden to native plants. Dedicating 30% or more of every garden to native plants helps. Also, if you are building new, or remodeling your home, you can extend the area of your green space by planning a rooftop native garden. Even if you are not redesigning your home, you can research to see if your home can support a rooftop garden. For more information on rooftop gardens check out: The Spruce, “All About Rooftop Gardening” (

Small section from a private native garden. Photo by Susan Lewitt.

Other helpful actions include having your local schools and businesses plant native gardens in bare areas, especially those areas that are underutilized. You may also contact your congressional leaders, and our president to encourage them to support this action of converting more land into protected natural spaces. The most effective way to contact the White House is by handwriting a letter containing only one subject. Send it to President Joe Biden, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500.

Several native plants in a private native garden including Bladderpod and Buckwheat. Photo by Susan Lewitt.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said “30 percent is the beginning. It’s setting a very strong foundation and we hope [it] will build the momentum for longer-term conservation to benefit current and future generations.” (The Biden Administration has a Game-Changing Approach to Nature Conservation, The ideal would be to have 100% native plants in protected areas to support local biodiversity and slow down or prevent extinction, but biodiversity can be preserved by protecting 50% of our planet Earth. There will always be those who long for exotic plants. We just must make sure that a reasonable portion of the land supports what really belongs here. For those of you who take on this pledge, and start using native plants in your garden, it only takes a garden of 85% native plants to qualify for the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) San Diego chapter’s Native Garden Tour. Let’s get planning, planting, and preserving our world and our health. For a short video explaining more about 30x30 and to sign the pledge to help, please go to:


Susan Lewitt is a member of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), participating in their Native Gardening Committee, and their Conservation Committee. She has volunteered to help with many of their events.

As a San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance volunteer, she works on enrichment items for animals, composting and special events. During the past 1½ years, she was able to do many helpful volunteer tasks from her home computer. Now she is glad to get back to in-person volunteering including gourd cleaning, and creating bird toys, among other enrichment projects.

She trained last summer to be a member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project Leadership Program. This October, Susan mentored a group of new Climate Reality Leaders. She is a member of the local chapter of the Climate Reality Project, as well as their Gardening for Everyone Pod. She has written or co-written several related presentations including “Composting and What We Throw Out”, “The Importance of Native Plants” and “California Fire and Drought”. These issues relating to protecting our environment and reversing Climate Change are especially important to all of us.


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