I recently saw this disturbing sign in the park & nature area next to my home in Ann Arbor. I’ve lived here for roughly 25 years and have never seen such a sign. This lovely natural haven contains protected wetlands and is filled with furry wildlife, bats, songbirds, ducks, an owl or two, and a variety of trees, plants, and wildflowers. It is also a walking path for folks with dogs, the occasional orange kitty, moms with strollers, and kids going to and from school.

If you are unfamiliar with glyphosate, I encourage you to do your own Googling to decide if you believe the risk is indeed “low.” Glyphosate is the main ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, believed to be a carcinogen harmful to the nervous and reproductive systems and the gut (and soil) microbiome. You may recall the recent alarm when it was discovered in our Cheerios.

Though the United States (led by the nose by its manufacturer, Bayer-Monsanto) is cool with it, many other countries have banned it. Nearly all environmental organizations agree glyphosate is toxic to life, with strong links to cancer.

From birds to dogs to honeybees, we’re all at risk. While pollinators gathering nectar, birds eating from the ground, and our furry friends who lick their feet and coats will have higher exposure, we’re also bringing this stuff home on our shoes and clothes. It doesn’t even need direct contact to hitch a ride. It drifts through the air on its own, sometimes landing on the veggies in your garden.

And as many of us celebrate the efforts to help our beloved pups live longer, we’re largely ignoring the killers next door. (Roundup causing cancer in dogs)

I’m not new here. I am painfully aware that pesticides are ubiquitous. The EPA is notoriously lax on protecting our health (EPA allows herbicide linked to Parkinson’s Disease), and even when they do, corporations fight to keep their products flowing (Judge overturns EPA ban on pesticide believed to cause brain damage in children). Meanwhile, concerns continue to emerge (UM study finds men who golf face 300% increased risk of ALS).

But homeowners, schools, businesses, and HOAs are often ignorant of their dangers. Or they simply choose the perfect lawn over concern for the cancer growing in our neighbor’s dog or cat, disappearing frogs, or losing the bees and butterflies essential to everyone’s survival.

I don’t know what the City is spraying with glyphosate. I imagine it’s to exterminate some plant they’ve targeted as a “foreign invader” as a part of questionable conservation efforts to destroy, by any means necessary, the plants and animals humans decide don’t belong. What I do know is that just like violently killing animals to protect the plants they eat to survive, poisoning the planet in the name of protection is unethical and nonsensical. We need more Compassionate Conservation, following the first rule of “do no harm.”

We have yet to learn our lesson from Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, published over a half-century ago. However, there is no time like the present. We can and should expect more from those elected to protect public health.

Thankfully, Mayor Taylor recently signed the Mayor’s Pledge to support efforts to protect monarch butterflies. That pledge includes a critical action we should embrace: “Reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals that are harmful to monarchs and pollinators and urban wildlife.”

What else can we do? We can spread awareness among our friends, family, and neighbors, and seek guidance from groups like Non Toxic Communities or Non-Toxic Neighborhoods to get our community leaders, HOAs, and workplaces to commit to ridding our communities of these harmful chemicals — to protect the lives we love inside and outside our homes.

Yours in the struggle,