A mysterious balance of matter exists among the grand diversity of life, including humans. Elements provide the currency in an ebb and flow of community interactions. Carbon is a fine example of an element found in all organic matter that supports a collaborative dance with species relationships.

Natural systems process, recycle, and reuse elements in a balanced game of survival. Animals’ release carbon dioxide that is gracefully filtered, and purified by the leaves and powered by renewable, radiant energy from the sun. This precious element is absorbed and becomes the stems, roots, bark, or other valuable parts of the magnificent plant producer. Birds and other creatures welcome the shade and habitat that is generously provided by the abundant green regalia on a warm summer day.

The cool temperatures of the fall season signal the leaves to release their elements into the branches and journey to the roots for winter’s storage. The display of rich colors grace the landscape as eye candy sooths the soul. The remaining organic matter falls to the ground to energize the powerhouse of communities that find refuge in the soil.

Insects diligently breakdown the leaves into smaller pieces to support the work of bacteria, algae, and fungi that dissolve the leaves. Carbon and other elements diffuse through the soil and deliver a generous supply of resources. Roots and other life welcome the resources; the nutrients that support the living. Soil is enriched with an ability to hold water and bind their particles to form a healthy ecosystem that harbors a diversity of community activities.

The balanced collaborative relationships have been disturbed by the creation of human-made and managed urban environments. A grand diversity of carbon combustion engines are used to sequester and move leaves in attempts to beautify the landscape. Massive trucks collect the abundant source of wealth to be transported to other locations. The carbon inflamed combusted, non-renewable fuel engulfs the air with toxic greenhouse gases.

Over time, the remaining landscape becomes void of the needed elements to endorse a healthy, wholesome community network of mutually beneficial organisms. The trees continue to produce leaves yet are unable to sequester organic matter stripped from the land. The lack of nutrients normally left behind from the previous season’s growth results in death, disease and illness to all of the living, including humans. Insects starved for food become pests in an attempt to survive off plant’s remaining organic matter.

Human’s vain attempt to manage the ecosystem includes the creation of synthetic chemicals to feed the trees, eradicate the insects, and support life. The natural cycle of life and death has been altered.

The movement of water is accelerated during rain, snow, or irrigation events. Soil erodes carrying sediment and hazardous chemicals to pollute the waterways and overwhelm sewage channels. Municipalities are burdened and tax payers charged for purifying the contaminated water. The soil is no longer able to absorb and infiltrate the water. These tasks once generously offered by a healthy ecosystem have been infused into the economics of urban management.

The plant’s ability to filter impurities from the air of burgeoning pollution becomes overpowering. The precious oxygen needed to support life becomes limited. The health-care industry becomes strained to service individuals encumbered by negative birth outcomes, elevated blood pressure, degraded mental health, and other illnesses.

Simple lifestyle change provide solutions to the dictates of present societal habits and perspectives. Composting yard and kitchen wastes offer a luxurious source of soil amendments; municipal solids may be processed and added to the landscape; and/or allowing the land to lay fallow so natural processes may resume their work at no cost. I challenge you to discover and share other ways to restore the balanced recycling and reuse of elements in your natural ecosystem.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a stewardship organization that is dedicated to educate the public on strategies to empower environmental and human health and well-being. The EPA’s health browser list the many negative health outcomes due to the lack of green space found in cities. The EPA’s Solid Wastes and Emergency Response departments offers a wealth of material on the benefits of composting yard and kitchen wastes to be used to prevent soil erosion, remediate pollution, and support the healthy growth of trees and soil communities.

Elizabeth Armstrong, PhD


United States Environmental Protection Agency: Solid Waste and Emergency Response. 1997. Innovative Uses of Compost: Erosion Control, Turf Remediation, and Landscape. EPA530-F-97-0743.

United States Environmental Protection Agency: Office of Solid Waste, 1999. The Effects of Composted Organic Material on the Growth Factors for Hardwood and Softwood Tree Seedlings.

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