Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony
Yale University Press, 2001 - Gardening - 178 pages
Americans love their lawns with a passion rarely seen in other countries; fifty-eight million Americans enthusiastically plant, weed, water, spray, and mow an estimated twenty million acres of lawn. But is our dedication to these lawns contributing to the serious environmental problems facing the planet? The authors in this book state that the lawn may be an ecological anachronism, and they argue that we must rethink the way we care for our lawns so that these small pieces of the environment will demonstrate our commitment to a more ecologically sound world. The authors outline the origins of ideas about the lawn and the reasons for its enduring popularity. They describe the development of ideas about its form and the making of the lawn into an object of beauty. They explain how the lawn industry has encouraged the spread of the "industrial" lawn to sustain high sales of mowers, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation equipment. However, say the authors, Industrial Lawns can have high environmental costs: for example, power motors contribute to regional air pollution and global warming; excess fertilizers and pesticides wash off our lawns and run into our wells, streams, and lakes; grass clippings that are bagged and hauled away are major contributors to solid waste problems; and the watering of lawns depletes scarce water supplies. How can we create environmentally sound lawns? The authors offer a variety of ideas - such as moderation in our use of lawn supplements, ecological use of grass varieties, the substitution of hand mowers for power motors, and the use of grass clippings to fertilize the lawn. These strategies can help us to care for conventional lawns in ways lessdangerous to the environment. They also propose two more radical alternatives: Freedom Lawns that allow natural and unrestricted growth of grasses, clover, wildflowers, and other broad-leafed herbaceous plants; and total replacement of the lawn with new landscape designs. By choosing these alternatives - which can be aesthetically pleasing as well as ecologically correct - we can unite our environmental concerns with direct personal action, acting locally while thinking globally and creating a new garden aesthetic in the process.
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