The grass is always greener

It’s a shorter one today, I promise. I was reading the other day about America’s single largest irrigated crop. What do we grow more of than anything else? There’s so much of it you can see it from space. Know what it is? Perhaps corn? Maybe wheat? Nope.

Grass.

Yep, that lawn that’s most likely outside your window right now is part of the greatest agriculture movement in our fine country. Chew on that.

Personally I think lawns are as completely ubiquitous for two main reasons. First, we’re deeply wired as social creatures. I have a lawn because my neighbor does. I don’t particularly like mowing, but I do so to keep from pissing off the people that live around me. Lawn begets lawn begets lawn. It’s such a part of our culture that it would be very hard to remove the lawn and replace it with anything else. There are even local laws preventing me turning my yard into a native Indiana habitat. After all, who wants to live next to a yard full of weeds?

I think the other reason lawns are the de-facto suburban standard is people inherently like creating order out of chaos. A lawn can be relatively easily sculpted into neat flowing lines around trees and bushes. They butt up gently against the hard edges of sidewalks and driveways. They provide a uniform height and color filler to our little corner of the world. With minimal effort, we create order.

Of course, the downside of lawns are the 800 million gallons of gas burned in lawnmowers every year to manicure these lawns. Or consider the fertilizers and herbicides used to keep our lawns need and green, or the water we dump on our lawns each summer. Don’t get me wrong, I love lazy summer evenings in our backyard playing on our lawn. They are memories I will cherish my whole life. But this weekend as I pushed my mower around our yard, I couldn’t help but wonder if all the fuel, water, man-hours, and land couldn’t be put to use in a better way. If only I could find a way to harness all that power and resources without pissing off the neighbors… I guess I’ll just have to chew on that idea a while.

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