40 million acres

That’s how much of America is lawn, according to Brian Black in CS Monitor. He’s reviewing “American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn,” by Ted Steinberg.

Black admits he doesn’t care for lawns, and Steinberg, apparently, thinks they’re “an instrument of planned homogeneity.”

As Americans sought to fit in with one another during the cold war, writes Steinberg, “…what better way to conform than to make your front yard look precisely like Mr. Smith’s next door?”

Sorry, but I think that’s just silly (although not quite as silly as “we descended from savannah dwellers,” lol). If it were true, then we’d all be painting our houses the same color. For that matter, we’d all want houses built exactly alike. We’d demand cookie-cutter landscaping. But we don’t. Even in relatively homogenous tracts, builders know to vary the color, orientation, floor plan etc. of the houses–and the longer they’re lived in, the more we alter them to make them unique.

Lawns are simply a fashion–a landscaping fashion–and like all fashion, the reason they’re popular is esthetic. People like the way they set off our homes and gardens, forming a kind of matte within the frame of road, sidewalk, or property line which borders our homes.

That’s why uniformity (i.e., no weeds) is considered so desirable. We don’t want the matte to call attention to itself. It’s supposed to be even-textured and uniform in color.

Are lawns a good ideal from an environmental standpoint? Probably not. But it’s facile to dismiss them with singsong “they’re all made out of ticky tacky” platitudes, particularly when your platitudes are tinged with condescension. Tastes change, and there’s no reason our collective eye couldn’t begin to appreciate other ways to frame our homes. But the way to get people to change is by presenting alternatives they find beautiful, not sneer at them for being mindless conformists.

[tags] lawns [/tags]

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