Lotus vs. Teenage Dream
Katy Perry takes on the Katy Prairie: Is the pop star or the nature land moreendangered?
Celebrity longevity and the durability of wide open spaces rarely come under comparison, so it took an innocent slip of the tongue to pair pop princess Katy Perry and the Katy Prairie, an outpost of genuine nature on the western outskirts of Houston.
The grassy, watery wilderness that is the Katy Prairie gets far less publicity in comparison to Perry. Instead, it's been the silent victim of rapid suburbanization, which with the expansion of the Grand Parkway, threatens the reserve's existence.
"It's one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet," explains Jaime Gonzalez, community education manager at the Katy Prairie Conservancy, an organization that has been working to save the Prairie since 1992. Gonzalez was a speaker at a recent Houston 2040 roundtable at Rudyard's.
He pointed out that as we pave over this paradise, we're losing vital farmland, which takes a lesser toll on wildlife. Regardless of endangered species, the Katy Prairie simply isn't a wise choice for new subdivisions.
"As we move forward with growth in the city, there are smarter places to build," Gonzalez says. "Considering the geography that's so flat, there's only so many holes you can dig in the ground and drainage you can do before people start getting flooded."
Perry has been criticized for possessing a "thin" voice and lacking originality. Not so for the Katy Prairie, which features a robust array of unique plant life and wetland species. On that list: American Lotus wildflower, squirrel tree frog, black-bellied whistling duck and eastern cotton-tail rabbit. There's also a whole entourage of sassy invertebrates, including the cucumber beetle, velvet ant, green lynx spider and Texas river shrimp.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Katy Perry can keep a goldfish alive.
What the Prairie does have over Perry is history. Granted, Perry does have a storied past that includes a gospel album, but the Prairie was host to Comanche and Karankawa Native Americans long before Perry kissed a girl (. . . and liked it). Historically, the land has been home to hordes of indigenous ducks, curlews and prairie chickens, and has served as a posh wintering ground for migratory birds.
Perry exhibits nothing but blind ambition in her gaze toward an ever-expanding career (which will likely echo around the same subdivisions that have usurped the Katy Prairie).
"I feel like I'm at a point in my life right now where I could potentially stick around," she said in a recent interview in Elle, in which she also confessed that her considerable success is an indicator of longevity.
While the Prairie fears penetration by the Grand Parkway, Perry's more than prepared to go under the knife for fame. "Aging isn't such a major issue for me now as I'm 26, but I have no doubt it will be, and I'm sure I'll deal with it by getting surgery that makes me look like a cat," she told The Mirror.
There's hope yet for Texas soil, though. With the help of the guileful Katy Prairie Conservancy, 18,000 acres have now been protected, with 13,000 saved through direct ownership and the remaining acreage achieved with conservation easements, purchased development rights and public ownership. Houston's heartland (as Gonzalez calls the area) is also on the brink of becoming designated as an IBA (Important Bird Area).
Admits Perry, "I think some people will die on the stage, and I'm not so sure I want to do that."
What this statement points to is an acceptance of her own mortality. In perhaps as little as 50 years, the singer's "Teenage Dream" will have passed, along with the last sparks of her "Firework."
What will still exist, however, is a robust (albeit small) remnant of the Katy Prairie.