Lawn People

Happy lawns?

This is my week for the presentation and I am doing my presentation of the first half of this book (Intro – chapter 4) and Ben is doing the rest of the book.

Compared to Breakfast of Biodiversity, I really enjoyed this book.  I was intrigued right from the beginning, after the mention of lawns becoming something that we closely control, but something that also controls us.   One of my favorite sections was the one about nonhuman nature.  The authors point out that there is a binary formed between the concepts of the city and society and the concepts of the country and nature.  When we (people from urban areas) want to “get away” they go on vacations to areas that are filled with more nature than what they would normally see.  The author describes that what we don’t think about is the nature around us all the time in cities.  “Cities are nothing but nature – metals, glass, and water – flowing through political and economic conduits.”  I just read a chapter in Cronon that describes this and talks about how we are so disconnected from nature.  We need to understand that nature is everywhere, not just in far away, ‘pristine’ places.

I found it interesting that lawns, when first introduced to America, were supposed to create this ‘community ideal’.  The open spaces and ‘no-fence’ policy  were supposed to create this sense of community  that would lead to activities, open community interaction and open moral sociability.  The author points out that these lawns weren’t expressing American culture, they were designed to produce it.

The American lawn wasn’t as perfect as some would like to think, it had many problems that came with it.  For example, the presence of weeds and insects, as well as the fact that grass naturally turns dull or brown.  Of course, the American lawn will have none of this, so the life of a lawn person is spent tending to this lawn.  Lawn people engage in many different activities to keep their lawns looking perfect, like mowing, fertilizing, watering, fertilizing, applying pesticides, fertilizing, cutting, and apply more pesticides.  The authors point out that “we begin to imagine the rhythm of whole neighborhoods, indeed whole cities, synchronized with the habits of grass.”  I find this to be pretty entertaining, because I can actually relate to it.  Every summer, when I’m home, I mow the grass once a week.  I only have 6 neighbors and it is inevitable, one of them will also be mowing his/her lawn at the same time.  It’s ridiculous how much time is spent just trying to keep our grass looking nice.

The idea of the chemical treadmill made me realize just how ridiculous these behaviors are.  When some sort of fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide comes into widespread use, the target (as well as nontarget) insects/species develop a resistance to it.  This is because these treatments result in the destruction of predator insects that naturally control pest populations.  This leads to an even bigger problem with the prey of these predators, which just leads to conditions where more chemicals can increase or restore productivity.  More chemicals leads to more chemicals which leads to more chemicals.

When it comes to my relationship with lawns/grass, I seem to be rather distanced from them.  When I was young, I would play outside all the time; running around in the rain or just in the yard in general, playing with my dogs, riding my bike on the lawn, watching all the cars drive by.  However, as I grew up, I leaned more towards pavement, instead of lawns.  I was able to ride my bike around the block instead of just around the yard, only something big girls were allowed to do.  So, I obviously took every opportunity I could get and rode my bike around the block, instead of the lawn.  Ever since then I’ve never really been a big fan of lawns.  I realized that there is more to explore than a simple lawn, which (according to this book) is merely another mold made by the hands of society.  Also, I found it interesting that lawns were first brought about to create a sense of community.  Nowadays that isn’t the case at all.  Fence’s are everywhere, people get mad if you enter into ‘their’ yard without their permission, and there is not much open community interaction.  Lawns have simply created an even larger binary ‘natural’ and ‘society.’

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