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THE PRAIRIE ECOSYSTEM - A PROLOGUE

Solutions Underfoot

Just as prairie grasses interlock their root systems, the people of the Flint Hills are tied inextricably to the land and to one another. For some this sea of grass and rich grazing land has been in their family for a hundred years and remains their livelihood. Others host prairie experiences for world travelers in search of adventure. Some toil and burn in order to preserve the most endangered ecosystem in North America. Many come home while gazing over the wide landscape during their daily commute. For most, the vista of the prairie frames their sunrises and sunsets and feeds their souls. All are connected.

The contradicting forces of wind and root on the prairie hold fast anything that tries to live upon the land. Every blade reaches for the sun in the hope that the wind will scatter their seed. There are many who have worked hard their entire lives to educate their children and send them out into the world to make a different, perhaps easier life. But they whisper a secret longing to the wind that their children will return again to the prairie, and those children feel the pull to this place.

If one looks beyond the resources this landscape provides and deeper into its natural splendor, it is possible to find a rich treasury of genius just underfoot that provide solutions to the challenges and contradictions of today. Since the glaciers and oceans receded this grassland ecosystem has learned to evolve and adapt to the changing forces of wind, water, and sun. The animals and indigenous people of this place have much to teach about how to respond to local conditions and be good stewards of its resources. The plants that thrive here know how to meet all their needs with the water and sun available. The prairie knows how to create conditions that are conducive to life and vitality. Those who call this place home are part of that legacy and learn daily to emulate its tenacity, its resiliency.

By asking, “how does the prairie do….?” One might find the answer to, “How can the people of the Flint Hills do…” By learning to observe what is happening in the natural systems of the prairie, it is possible to find solutions for all Flint Hills’ communities.

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PRAIRIE INSIGHTS

How does the prairie incorporate diverse forms, processes, or systems to respond to changing conditions?
The genus Lobelia hosts an abundant number of species, large and small, in a range of colors, many appearing dissimilar from each other. The differing forms of the Lobelia found in the Flint Hills attract a variety of pollinators including hummingbirds, bumblebees, moths, wasps, and butterflies improving the chances of spreading genetic material without relying on one single set of conditions to be present to ensure pollination. Incorporating a variety of diverse forms makes Lobelia more resilient and responsive to changing conditions.
How can Flint Hills communities incorporate diverse forms, processes, or systems to respond to changing economic conditions?
Creating conditions that will attract new businesses, big and small to employ a variety of skills and to serve a large variety of consumers and cultural interests, will diversify the Flint Hills economy. It is always desirable to attract large employers, and yet communities are more resilient when they do not rely on one or two large industries for the livelihoods of many. Businesses in many sectors allow some to thrive if conditions for one type of business suddenly change. This provides families with more diverse sources of income and stability as economic conditions fluctuate.
background: © Kevin Sink Photography