Lawn People

Suburbia

I actually ended up really liking this book. I thought most of this information was really interesting and it was more than I had ever previously known about crazy suburbanites and their lawns.

What struck me right away is the quote in the first chapter that “people who use more chemicals on their lawn tend to be more likely to believe that lawn care has a negative effect on local water quality than people who do not” (pg. 2). I feel like this goes along with the conversation we had about people who recycle just to be seen “being green.” He even mentioned later on in the book in the section interviewing Kingberry Court residents that most of them consider themselves environmentalists even though they treat their lawns almost 6 times a year with hazardous chemicals. They are even aware of the negative effects of these chemicals, and they still do it. So if people know that what they are doing is bad for the environment and maybe even to their own health, then why do they still do it? Is lawn care really that important? I feel like it is all an image thing. People don’t want to be perceived as poor or dirty, and they want their lawns to reflect that. Apparently image trumps the environment in the minds of most upper class white suburbanites.

In chapter 2, Robbins mentioned that one argument as to how the American lawn emerged is from “a practical matter of clearing woods and forest and keeping wild and fearful landscapes at a safe distance from the home” (pg. 19). This reminded me of our discussion on the early feelings towards the wilderness, and how it was percieved as a scary and ugly place. This makes sense in my mind, because if the wilderness was so unkown and foreign to us, than it seems only practical to keep this apart from where we live. However, with the changing perceptions of the wilderness as time goes by, why hasn’t the populations urge to keep such an unnatural piece of nature so close to home?

When Robbins talks about the science behind growing grass, he clearly states “when left alone, grass will do just fine” (pg. 37). If people can learn to adapt to the occasional weed or brown spot, people wouldn’t have to put all the time, energy, and harmful chemicals into caring for their lawns. I really think people need to start listening to the facts about growing grass, and just let their lawns take their natural course. Who cares what the neighbors think?

On that note, I also really liked the chapter where Robbins interviewed the wealthy residents of Kingberry Court. What really hit me is the emphasis on people who care for their lawns just to keep up with the neighbors. This is the classic case of “keeping up with the Joneses.” One resident says he even tries to mow the lawn at the same time as the neighbor’s lawn mowing service does just so “their yards will flow together.” Why does it matter what the neighbors lawns looks like? Why do people feel the need to make their lawns meet the standards that everyone else holds? I don’t really get it…

I really think we need to start looking at alternative landscaping options such as rain gardens and xeriscape designs. I really enjoyed learing about these techniques in Lawn People and I intend in reading about them some more. I looked up some images of xeriscape designs, and I think it is much prettier than a typical green grass lawn anyway. However, looking back to when I was a kid and growing up, it probably would have sucked not to have a lawn to run around and play in. Nothing beats rolling around in the grass on a hot sunny day. Maybe a combination of the two, regular lawns and rain gardens or xeriscapes, would be a happy medium?

Xeriscape Designs

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