Being lawn people has become second nature to us just like many other things. Even if we know it may be environmentally unsound like driving our cars or taking long showers we still do it. It would be easy to stop, but we chose not to.
As much as we have a lasting impact on the environment and how much of it we create or alter, nature and lawns have a great deal of influence over us as well.
There are definite tendencies among lawn people. Lawn people are generally educated, wealthy, and come from certain areas.
Lawn people like to think that they have the freedom, the choice to be lawn people since it is an American thing, but in reality they are participants, and lawns cease being natural are “created”. Lawns become an industry rather than a park or natural place. This industry has developed into an extensive market worth billions of dollars. Manufacturing equipment and selling and marketing them is big business. The cost of researching developing one new pesticide can cost $20 to $50 million. Companies adopt two strategies to increase chemical usage; get non-users to begin using fertilizers and pesticides, and get current users to increase the number of applications.
What if this family knew how much harmful chemicals went into the grass the are laying on. Would they still smile?
Many people who qualify themselves as “green” are certainly not green. It takes a certain combination of things to produce a nuanced understanding capable of making the conclusion of being “green” and I don’t believe the majority of people are exposed to these issues in a way that lets them understand the meaning of “green”.
Lawns initially were for the very wealthy only. Maintaining one acre of land required one day’s work from 3 workers; indeed for the well to do only. Americans then put their own spin on lawns, making it into what they wanted to be. Lawns were now something everyone could have in America, not like the English elite.
Lawn people’s demands of their lawns contradict the nature of lawns themselves. We expect them to be thick and cushy with not bare spots, always green and be a monoculture or neatly trimmed grass. All of these simply are not natural for plant species to do. Grass has dormant seasons when it dies and monocultures are certainly rare in the natural world. Because we choose certain qualities for our lawns, we then become indebted to them. They rely on being water and fertilized and we must keep the cycle going. Lawns literally become addicted to inputs in order to be maintained.
One issue with chemical use is that even if each person uses less, the number of yards and the size of yards are increasing, so chemical use overall increases, straining the environment as chemicals come in contact with us, our children, our pets, our homes, our food, and our water sources.
A common theme among people interviewed about lawn practices is that they are too busy care if what they are doing to their lawns is hazardous, and deny the fact they may be the root of what is causing harm. In daily life, people seldom talk about their lawns, and typically dislike the chores involved, yet still invest so much time and money into them. People even go so far as to be good neighbors and cut others lawns and pickup sticks, feeling a duty to do so. Instead of having a choice, lawn people become obligated and subjugated to their lawns.
The author suggests alternatives such as native plant species instead of a foreign monoculture and rain gardens or ones that are hardy in places with dry climates. Some reasons that these alternatives don’t flourish is local governments which resist changes and claim that tall grasses pose a threat to fire safety and are a haven to pests.
“It might seem an odd conclusion, both freeing and frightening, to suggest that the world is both profoundly structured but also totally malleable, that no one is driving the train and that it has no track”.
All of the suggestions for accepting alternatives seem totally rational and acceptable such as changing the grass that you inherit and encouraging diversity, yet no one embraces them. Why is this?