French aristocrats popularized the idea of the green grassy lawn in the eighteenth century, when they planted the agricultural fields around their estates to grass, to send the message that they had more land than they needed and could therefore afford to waste some. Meanwhile, French peasants starved for lack of available ground, and the resulting frustration might have had something to do with the French Revolution in 1789.
Today, 58 million Americans spend approximately $30 billion every year to maintain over 23 million acres of lawn. That’s an average of over a third of an acre and $517 each. The same size plot of land could still have a small lawn for recreation, plus produce all of the vegetables needed to feed a family of six. The lawns in the United States consume around 270 billion gallons of water a week—enough to water 81 million acres of organic vegetables, all summer long.
Lawns use ten times as many chemicals per acre as industrial farmland. These pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides run off into our groundwater and evaporate into our air, causing widespread pollution and global warming, and greatly increasing our risk of cancer, heart disease, and birth defects. In addition, the pollution emitted from a power mower in just one hour is equal to the amount from a car being driven 350 miles. In fact, lawns use more equipment, labor, fuel, and agricultural toxins than industrial farming, making lawns the largest agricultural sector in the United States. But it’s not just the residential lawns that are wasted on grass. There are around 700,000 athletic grounds and 14,500 golf courses in the United States, many of which used to be fertile, productive farmland that was lost to developers when the local markets bottomed out.
Turf is big business. $45 billion a year big. The University of Georgia has seven turf researchers studying genetics, soil science, plant pathology, nutrient uptake, and insect management. They issue undergraduate degrees in Turf. The turf industry is responsible for a large sector of the biotech (GMO) industry, and much of the genetic modification that is happening in laboratories across the nation is in the name of an eternally green, slow growing, moss-free lawn.
These huge numbers are somewhat overwhelming, if not completely incomprehensible, but they make the point that lawns are not only a highly inefficient use of space, water, and money; they are seriously contributing to the rapid degradation of our natural environment.
Um detalhe que os verdes californianos não se lembraram é que o gramado se popularizou primeiro nos dois lados do canal da mancha e no vale do Loire, que são o habitat natural da grama baixinha, com chuva miúda quase todo dia. Não na Califórnia semidesértica.
at 12:20 PM