Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Field Notes from the Burbs: Part Two

Five of us spent the greater part of Sunday afternoon raking leaves. It's an activity that brings back memories of the sunny autumn afternoons of my childhood. Dragging a rake through grass for hours got me thinking about lawns and how very, very much of the green stuff there is in the suburbs. Seeding, fertilizing, and mowing the big lawns that surround American houses has become something like a national pastime. Perhaps those images of the Kennedy kids throwing the ol' football around on the lawn of their estate really inspired us. Whatever the cause, we've created large swaths of land covered in grass and often populated with a few conical shrubs and trees.

I had a hunch that all of this grass isn't the best for Mother Earth given the amount of chemical inputs that many weekend warriors pump into their lawns and the amount of pollution generated from gas mowers. This article gives the details on the impact of lawns on the environment.

Now, let's take a minute and envision the suburbs with less grass. Not none at all, just less. I imagine houses having kitchen gardens where fresh herbs and healthy veggies grow organically, ready to be picked as part of the family meal. Less time and money would be sucked into the Big Food industry and we probably wouldn't need all those plastic bags. I also imagine native plants, shrubs, and trees attracting songbirds and other wildlife. Perhaps a rainwater collection system would allow us to nourish all of these new plants without the full-time sprinkler approach that is necessary to support a lush lawn. And with people growing food and noticing wildlife, perhaps we'd start communicating with our neighbors a bit more: sharing that huge zucchini yield, commenting on the bluebird that landed in our crabapple tree.

Winter is approaching and with it the time for dreaming of spring. In the midst of the holiday craze, let's nurture ideas for a different, gentler way to live on our little piece of the earth. For some great inspiration, you can't beat what the folks over at Path to Freedom are doing on just a 1/4 acre in Pasadena. And check out the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat Certification Project for great ideas on how to create habitat for wildlife in suburban areas.

By growing some of our food (a subject I am passionate about) and creating wildlife habitats, we not only avoid some of the environmental pitfalls created by too much lawn, but we also send the message that we have not fallen for the empty promises of industrial agriculture and suburban sprawl.

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