OK this is a personal rant about my thoughts on lawns and our organized destruction of the urban/suburban environment. Please comment with your thoughts on lawns.
First I'll start with some reasons for and the place of lawns but then follow with discussion on why I think lawns are idiotic, and we should get rid of them in favor of biodiversity and productive landscapes.
Don't get me wrong. Lawns have their place: golf fairways, football, rugby and parks all are great places for lawns. However outside of sports and recreational areas, lawns are a threat to our health and wealth, literally. Here are some reasons against lawns: lawns waste money, lawns waste time, lawn care pollutes.
We spend a ton of money on lawns. Even in my tiny suburb of Pittsburgh, there isn't a sunny day that doesn't humm with the sound of my tax dollars as well as my neighbors' hard earned income burned in a lawnmower, leafblower, chainsaw, hedgetrimmer or some other high-powered weapon of lawn destruction. Go out to the country and it's the same thing. Only out there people have tractors for lawnmowers and spend thousands of dollars on mowing acres of lawn. We are facing ever-increasing gasoline prices and run-away climate change. Is it only me that wonders why we must attack our surroundings with machines? Are we really that stressed that we have to take it out violently on our front yards?
On one hand, all of this money spent is paying for a market of "landscapers" who seem to spend every waking minute burning some form of fossil fuels. These are jobs, and this is a rough economy I'm sure, but every one of these jobs and more could be put into orchards, coppice forests, pollinator gardens and bee boxes, rain barrel installations, and many more. All of these jobs would produce a income producing product without burning fossil fuels. Hmmm.
Speaking of that humming of lawn destruction. Ever wonder how much time people spend in their lawns dumping poisons, attacking nature with gas engines, and otherwise disturbing the order of things? If everyone quit mowing their lawns and took a break or a nap, maybe we could get along better...How many days did you lose to lawn work last season? Weren't they the best days of the year to be inhaling gas fumes and tearing apart living tissues?
All of the "lawn care" chemicals, fertilizers, and fungicides leave our soil in pretty rough shape. With no biology left, and no roots to hold it, increasing runoff water starts to pollute the surrounding areas without natural cleaning. The lack of retention causes flash floods, and in Pittsburgh the soil starts slipping downhill. This erosion and water pollution along with air pollution of small engines, and sound corrupting our peace make it hard to appreciate the quiet and deliberate design of natural forest systems.
But at least you get to look at short, parched, sunburned grass leaves. That's beauty, right?. Then we spend money on drinking water to resusitate the poorly rooted plants. We are literally pouring recently chemically polluted drinking water into the storm drains and watersheds to keep our lawns alive when they thoroughly want to die. Suburbanites grow lawns in the desert too. Why?
Alternatively: trees, perennial herbs, rocks, and swales would passively regulate the water and temperature with no external inputs. In this sense, spreading lawns across America is actually helping contribute to our loss of climate control.
"Lawn's looking good today neighbor. You have conquered your soil to the edge of death and starvation. You have tossed the life of topsoil to the wind while managing to burn through excessive amounts of gas and drinking water. Then you poured poison on it. Well done. Take that nature." <3 Jeff
OK so what is this all for? I've heard two suggestions:
One was that we hold this aesthetic from our days from the African Savanna where trees and low grass happen naturally. Until an elephant knocks the tree down in favor of forage grass. Grasslands only occur naturally where there is disturbance, due to animals, fire, or lawnmower abuse. In our geographic location, the natural succession would be to forest, so cut the lawn we must to keep the aesthetic of a savanna with large foraging animals.
The second suggestion was that a lawn is a status symbol from the days when you would have had a huge sheep flock to forage a large lawn. Large lawns mean that you are wealthy. I think this also has some merit because considering how wasteful lawns and suburbs are, it fits right in with the American plan for "conspicuous consumption" as a way of demonstrating wealth.
Bottom line: lawns are the fashion right now. The lawn economy is based in a fashion that was sold to us. Like the economy that it built, lawn fashion is also phantom and volitile. For any reasons, if it is a question of aesthetic, the predominant belief seems to be that a large short lawn is a good, beautiful thing.
This is a question of fashion, but I believe we can change it. We must help create a positive vision of a life without lawns: a life with cleaner water & air, quieter streets, healthier ecosystems, and productive jobs. By standing out and turning each of our lawns into a backyard oasis for wildlife, food production, herbs, forest farming or any other type of natural landscape, we will continue the trend towards the tipping point where people might get it.
If anyone wants any ideas on what to do besides lawns, send me a message. Be safe out there.
End of Rant. Thanks :)