Celebrating Earth Day with 101 Quadrillion Colors on Texas (and our Nations) Roads-Thanks to The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
I was going to try and do something with 101 in the title because after 20 months of blogging, I finally managed to break 100 posts but something a lot better came along with Earth Day and the advent of Texas Wildflower Season. Every year about this time, if we get enough rain, the roadsides all over Texas explode with a variety of colorful wildflowers! Few people probably realize that the reason for the multicolored carpet of flora is none other than Lady Bird Johnson and her creation of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center! Back in 1965, Lady Bird began a number of efforts towards "Beautification" of our country that was a "combination of rural and urban environmentalism, national parks conservation, anti-pollution measures, water and air reclamation, landscaping and urban renewal." Lady Bird was "GREEN" and celebrating Earth Day long before many of the current environmentalists were even born and was a true pioneer!
I remember cracking up as a kid listening to Lady Bird on TV and radio reminding us, in that southern drawl to, "Plant a shruuub, a Tuhree or a Booosh", to help keep America beautiful. (I don't know why I thought it was so funny as I have a pronounced Texas drawl myself) Using donations by wealthy philanthropists she planted thousands of flowers all over Washington to bring beauty and "masses of flowers where the masses pass." On my birthday, May 24th, 1965, Lady Bird Johnson addressed the two-day White House Conference on Natural Beauty, and began actively pursuing environmental and conservation legislation that Lyndon Johnson's administration would work on during his tenure as President. She encouraged the Job Corps to expand skills it taught to include landscaping and Lady Bird also created the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden and the Children's Garden on the White House South Lawn. Mrs. Johnson took her crusade to low-income areas, "largely populated by African-Americans, in preparation for the work they would conduct there: the cleaning, refurbishment and maintenance of city schools, the installation of recreation areas, massive housing project trash cleanups, and the implementation of a summer "Projects Pride" program employing college and high school students in neighborhood tree plantings and conservation, pest control, sanitation and renovation of decaying public buildings." As noted in Lady Bird Johnson's biography.
Something most people do not know is that Lady Birds efforts spread all across the country. She took on negligence within the National Government and brought about the cleaning of Military "eyesores", focused efforts toward local and state air-pollution, convincing power companies to run power lines underground, stopping strip mining(actually supported by The National Coal Association) and more efforts at local beautification projects. Her most controversial effort was the Highway Beautification Act which was dubbed "Lady Bird's Bill". One of the ideas was to limit the enormous amount of billboards cluttering up the landscape an use access to Federal Highway funds to bring about compliance. Lady Bird received sharp criticism and resistance from the powerful "Outdoor Advertising Association of America" fought every aspect of the project from the beginning. She was lampooned in numerous cartoons as a "typical woman driver" running down several billboards and denigrated in ways unthinkable today, or maybe not...After a very hard struggle that brought a number of unlikely supporters together, the bill finally passed. Though Congress continued to resist by releasing few funds and the lack of authority to enforce the regulations in many states kept the bill from having as much of an initial impact, Lady Bird persisted through the private sector to have locally indigenous plants throughout the countries roadways. Many of her original efforts were the spark to bring about environmental changes in many areas that had been neglected for years. So, when you are driving along and see a few less billboards, junkyards, toxic gas stations, strip mine sites and less of a lot of the crap and more of natures beauty, Thank Lady Bird!
To learn more about Lady Bird's Legacy and numerous programs to beautify the world and nurture our environment, visit Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The facility is located here in South Austin and is an amazing place. By the way, all of these pictures were taken over the last two weeks here in the Austin area in Westlake, Rob Roy and Lost Creek. We have had just the right amount of rain and sunshine to keep the roads covered so it's a good time to "join the masses" and stop by the roadway to take a few pictures for posterity. You see folks doing it at all hours of the day and NIGHT! SO...JUST BE CAREFUL, PULL OFF TO THE SIDE AWAY FROM TRAFFIC. Use common sense and you will have some great pictures. We are certainly living The Good Life in Austin Texas Y'all!