“Lawn Culture” and You

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By Brandi Mitchell
Web Content Contributor

It’s green. It’s beautiful. It’s evenly cut and generously watered. It’s landscaped to perfection, gleaming like a gem in your suburban neighborhood as a beacon to all who gaze upon it that you have the lawn of all lawns. You are the lawn queen, the lawn king and you take pride in your meticulously manicured stretch of land that subtly represents all that you desire in this world– beauty, structure, perfection, consistency. 

You look upon the lawn as the innocent manifestation of your lifelong struggle to create order out of chaos; a square green ode to the rise and fall of empires, the clash of dynasties, the wars lost and won, the search for meaning in an endless and perhaps fruitless avoidance of anarchy.

Dare I say that your small plot of lawn connects you to the Neanderthals and their first discovery of fire, the cities that were erected out of dust and stone to protect their inhabitants from imminent peril, the governments established to safeguard against certain doom? 

Your lawn is much more than your lawn… it’s a metaphor for all of human existence, all of human meaning, all of human destiny.

Yet, what if your precious green lawn now represents something far less noble and far more sinister?

You may hear the words “lawn culture” and feel an untempered laugh rise in your throat. “Lawn culture…are you serious?” You may mockingly ask, as you dismiss any silly concern over a harmless patch of carefully preserved grass. Yet, what if I reminded you that even as increasing droughts plague our world, we continue to water our lawns with an average of 9 billion gallons a day? 

A green lawn flanked by large trees and other greenery, with a small marble horse statue in the corner.
A beautiful green lawn is certainly easy on the eyes, but is it easy on our planet? Certainly not.
Image retrieved via Creative Commons.

Your aesthetically pleasing, sculpted patch of grass is actually responsible for almost half of all outdoor water use, even as we become more concerned that our global water demand will surpass supply as early as 2030. Your lawn may have once represented an escape from chaos, but ironically enough, it now may be quickly ushering us into an untimely demise.

Over three trillion gallons of water are lost every year watering American lawns. As water becomes more scarce, those trillions of gallons may become ever more precious. 

Even apart from the water supply, lawns pose a threat to local ecosystems displaced by over 40 million acres of lawns. Instead of a diverse environment of local plants and wildlife, humans have destroyed what is natural to create a beautiful green lie. Also harmful to local wildlife and plant life are the 30,000 tons of pesticides used on lawns each year that in turn contaminate the water supply we humans use to drink. 

We use twice the pesticides on our lawns than used on the most pest-ridden crop (sweet corn). Of the 30 most common pesticides, 14 are believed to be neurotoxins and/or carcinogens and up to two thirds are believed to cause reproductive harm to humans. 

Flooding can also be a harmful byproduct of lawns with turf-grass. This grass has very short roots and does not open up soil like natural and local grasses do. Long root systems allow rainwater to seep into the ground and replenish underground aquifers. 

Brown and dry, cracked ground during a drought.
Could this be our future?
Image retrieved via Creative Commons.

Lawns may be green, but they certainly aren’t supporters of a green planet. I’m not here to lawn-shame you, I just want to leave you with this:

When your parched throat and slowly wilting spirit are facing death by dehydration in as little as a mere 15 years from now, will your beautiful green lawn be able to quench your thirst?  Or will it simply be a sad remnant of a dream where you attempted to unite yourself with a long history of misguided human striving that has all this time been the chicanery of a grim reaper leading you to your own doom?

 Perhaps a question to ask yourself as you turn on that sprinkler tonight: with every whhhrrrr of that innocent but sinister device, are you hearing a cry from the planet to abate its groaning agony? The end of lawn culture isn’t a hill I’ll die on… but it may yet be a hill we all die on… a well-fertilized, well-watered grave. 

Sleep well, lawn lovers. 

Feature image retrieved via Creative Commons.

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