Lawns

pg3 “Lawn people worry a lot about what they do, although their behavior is not always altered by that belief.”  Pretty common problem for a lot of environmental issues, people are concerned but the concern is about something so abstract that their actions do not reflect their attitudes

pg13 “And as we shall see, the demands of turf grasses are an immediate and profound influence on homeowners, which set people about the tasks that keep them busy throughout the growing season. Who’s to say which species domesticated which?”

pg28 “The unification of the borrowed aesthetic of the English land gentry, merged with budding sensibilities of a rising middle class, brought with it a unique set of landscape goals, centered on grass.”

pg32 “Lawns are a strategy, therefore, both for capital accumulation and for making doctile and responsible citizens.”

pg37 “Grasses are tough survivors.They are considered weeds in agriculture.. Left alone, grasses will do just fine. Assuming that dull-colored areas can be tolerated; that dandelions, plantains, clover, ground-ivy, and other weeds can be ignored; that occasional dead spots and openings can go overlooked; a yard requires little or no care, short of periodic mowing. Moreover, once these conditions can be tolerated, the lawn ecosystem will in many ways become self-regulating.”

Grasses are obviously hardy plants and thus the problem then does not rely on having yards full of grass, but all the things we do to that grass to mold and shape it into the perfect lawn.

pg 46 Lawn care began as an activity only for the elite, way beyond the ability of the normal late nineteenth century homeowner. It began as this ideal image of a few individuals grew into a luxury activity and then as the lawn care industry grew and diversified (fertilizers) into an expected form of yard management.

pg52 “As early as 1946, DDT was described as ‘destined to take a place as the best weapon yet discovered in man’s age-long war with hitherto unconquerable enemy, the insects'”.

Unconquerable enemy? This is just another example of humans trying to work against nature and overcome it.  

pg60 “By genetically producing grasses that are immune to the effects of the currently more effective and most useful herbicides available, the likelihood of future weediness of these species is nearly assured. .. The promulgation of such grasses assures the demand for continuous innovation, production and sale of new chemical formulations to control the species rendered uncontrollable through genetic engineering. ”

Roundup, a popular herbicide kills grasses, broad leaf weeds and even woody plants. To be able to use Roundup on crops and grasses, genetically altered plants that are resistant to Roundup’s effects were created. These crops thus are a product and increase the use of herbicide products, simply furthering the cycle of plant manipulation.

pg66 People are exposed to lawn chemicals through: chemicals stay on clothes of people who applied the chemical, or walked on or near the lawn and become a “persistent source of contamination”. Also a lot of chemicals are tracked inside, accumulate on the floors and carpets making exposure for young children playing on the floor both common and dangerous.

pg71 “Yet lawn care remains a source of a human and environmental hazard that is resistant to increased environmental knowledge.”

chapter 6:lawn people. There was an overall feeling that some chemical use is okay and won’t do anything too negative. They were very apt to trust chemical company experts or professionals who take care of their lawn. Another way that people dealt with the anxiety about the chemicals was by explaining that they were too busy to worry about the details of the treatments they were having done/doing to their lawns (simply doing what ever would make their grass look great). Finally they treated their lawns because thats what the neighborhood expected of them.

        p105 “I have had a discussion with the head of our fertilizing company and he pretty much assured me that the amounts and the way we are doing it, plus   the professional manner in which they do it, that I am not worried. We are not over doing it.”

       pg111 “Everyone around here works very hard keeping up their homes. I wouldn’t insult my neighbors by not keeping my house up.”

alternatives: plant native species to replace turfgrass, diversify. Simple, cost-effective, resources are available to do so and many environmentally conscious groups and organizations are promoting this kind of action. Yet..

pg122 “In virtually every municipality in the U.S., homeowners are required by law to cut their grass on a regular basis and keep their property in a “neat and clean” manner, usually setting a maximum lawn height of six to eight inches.”

Also pressure (real or imagined) from neighbors,  a need to preserve pride, and anxiety about breaking habits all of which are enforced by lawn companies and their advertising campaigns.

My reflections:

This wasn’t my favorite book and all of the details slowed my reading of it, but the topic I believe is an important one for the general public, because I believe there are many people out there that just don’t consider the ramifications of the chemicals they drench their lawns with or have just never stopped to consider why they spend so much time taking care of their lawns. One of the things that can be gained from Robbins’ book is the consequences of trying to overcome nature. In order to create the idealized lawn, one has to interfere with the normal processes and interactions of plants and input a bunch of chemicals into the grass to make it look perfect. We should be taking  an approach that involves working within nature and with nature to get the things we want. And learning from nature’s processes instead of trying to stomp on them. This book also shows that the yard itself is not the problem. It is all the work, energy, and chemicals that people use to turn their yard into this idealized monoculture, aesthetically pleasing, always-green lawn.

I also think that Robbins’ book is a good example for how we should approach all the behaviors or habits of our culture that we are trying to change because they are unsustainable or dangerous to the environment. People realize that lawn chemicals are potentially dangerous and have negative effects on people and the environment, many people today are also concerned about protecting the environment, and the solution to this problem is pretty simple, low-cost and easy to do. Simply let your lawn persist as it naturally wants to or replace turfgrass with diverse and natural species. This book looks at why if the solution is there, why aren’t people chosing it. He looks at the complex interactions and forces behind the lawn culture that have made it the way it is today, and the approach is one that should taken with every similar issue. Changing society’s habits is not a simple task, and if we are slowly going to bring about changes that involving living more sustainably, environmentalists are going to have to understand and work with all of these pressures and interactions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: