Lawn Loonies & Envirophobia
"I think turf is overdone in England."
-Alice Morse Earle, 1897
There is a type of home owner who lives in horror of a squirrel coming into the yard for surely it will bury a nut in the perfect lawn, or worse yet a mole who will raise a little pile of, ohmigod, dirt frightening dirt; & if it's not some wild animal it's some wicked dandylion, not to mention the dreaded (dare I use such a nasty four-letter word?) moss!
As a rule, such ecophobes don't even like gardens. They want only lawns, with at most a severely trimmed hedge along the street as a barrier against anyone setting foot on the precious lawn.
People shouldn't worry about wildlife in their yards & the mole provides the ideal example of human over reaction. Except for an especially industrious Townsend's mole which can singlehandedly make dozens of mole hills, most moles do far more good than harm in a garden & leave only a little evidence of their presence. Moles being highly territorial, there is only ever one in a given yard, yet people will swear up & down they have several.
The desire to kill moles has caused people to devise all sorts of ineffective repellant recipies & worthless ultrasonic devices, to set out the cruelest sorts of spear-traps, or hire professional mole trappers for a ghastly sum, & to make a big industry out of something generally harmless & of no real consequence.
In most cases such people get weirded out because they have intentionally created a sterile yard uninviting to all wildlife. Their yards have as much of "nature" about them as does the highway centerline. The intrusion of nature into this sterility is received like a plague flea on the hide of a taxidermed poodle. In many towns & cities & even entire states or provinces, laws have been passed banning pet ferrets, gerbils, white rats, boa constrictors, & several varieties of dogs. Even that which is permitted must be liscensed, castrated & tied up at all times. Is it any wonder a society that terrified of what others may have as pets would be equally terrified of something wild that surely has rabies & will spread contageons while wrecking the yard.
One frightened soul said she had no choice but to get rid of the moles because otherwise her beloved dog might get his leg broken stepping in a hole. Worrying about this impossibility was not lessoned by the assurance that no horse, cow, dog, cat, human, or pogo-sticking child ever got injured in a mole hole. This phobic belief is much more common with prairie dogs. Prairie dogs learned to create towns that the American buffalo could race through without problem, yet farmers remain convinced if they don't shoot to death every prairie dog in sight, all their cattle will be laying out in the prairie dog town with all their legs broken. Doesn't happen. Ecophobes can't be convinced.
For Lawn Loonies, it takes lots of poisons worked into the ground at regular intervals to make sure nothing but turf can stay alive. Poison the weeds; poison the insects; poison the kids. Then it requires persistent trimming lest a random grass stem grows five inches tall instead of three. A horror of dogs pissing on the grass engenders hatred between neighbors. In support of the lawn, about three thousand dollars worth of lawn tools are required, several of which make a great racket intended to frighten off all living things, & at least one of these tools will spew more toxins into the atmosphere than a ten ton truck. All this is topped off with a totalitarian eagerness to pass & enforce bylaws that define meadows as fire hazards that breed vermin so that every empty lot must be sterilized & turned into parking lots or the owner of the meadow risks being dragged into court & fined.
And for this obsession, the Lawn Loony is rewarded with a flat green plain of abject homeliness which he mistakes for joyful beauty compared to what is hard to say, a cave-man's floor covered with bat guano perhaps.
The horrors imposed on the environment by lawn loonies is not a new realization. Robert Frost (1874-1963) had these feelings half a century anon, in his poem "The Last Mowing":
"There's a place called Far-away MeadowSterile lawns have got to be just about the ugliest aesthetic ever devised by man, second only to open sewage ditches or be-maggoted human corpses piled high along the road as proof of Atilla's or Napoleon's passing. Nevertheless, the unsightly horror of a well-tended lawn is what a lot of zombified nature-phobic suburbanoids think is best. And the more deadly the chemicals it took to get it that way the better.
We never shall mow in again,
Or such is the talk at the farmhouse:
The meadow is finished with men.
Then now is the chance for the flowers
That can't stand mowers & plowers.
It must be now, through, in season
Before the not mowing brings trees on,
Before trees, seeing the opening,
March into a shadowy claim.
The trees are all I'm afraid of,
That flowers can't bloom in the shade of;
It's no more men I'm afraid of;
The meadow is done with the tame.
The place for the moment is ours
For you, oh tumultuous flowers,
To go to waste & go wild in,
All shapes & colors of flowers,
I needn't call you by name."
So of course a mole's little pile of dirt erupting in the middle of that pizzashit lawn, or a single squirrel burying a chestnut, launches the sterility-lovers into panic attacks.
This is not merely my theory. Natural environment phobia is a studied illness, & some cultures are almost universally afflicted. For example, in some Central American countries, hardly anyone would permit anything to grow near their house. Some cultures are quite the opposite; rather than evirophobic they are naturophilic. Certain Native American & Australian aboriginal peoples have a proven ability to exploit their environments for personal gain for thousands of years without destroying any of it. By contrast the average American can destroy the entire countryside in a matter of a few years if not scant hours.
Lawn-lovers are a naturophobic subculture which grew out of the same cultural mental illness that permits us to destroy as many forests & animals as possible & replace everything with concrete or lawns & regard it as progress rather than tragic & nightmarish.
For this reason I would like to do away with the flattering phrase "You have a nice lawn." Nice Lawn is a disharmonious, self-contradictory pair of words. That which in no way resembles a condition for natural flora; which in no way contributes to an environmental balance that would include many plant varieties, insects, small mammals & birds; which requires unnatural & even deadly patterns of human behavior to sustain it (such as the use of lawnmowers that are greater pollution machines than automobiles, or use of herbicides & poisons to destroy all insects & whatever birds might eat poisoned insects) can never really be "nice."
The phrase we should adapt for greater accuracy would "evil lawn." Something can only be evil if it requires all other life to be killed or poisoned, including ultimately ourselves, since we do have to live in the chemicals & air pollutants we create in order to maintain an evil lawn.
The norm should be for people's yards to consist of organic gardens, & ungardened areas to resemble meadows of native grasses & plants. Even a roadside green margin should be permitted to grow wild so that the grasses will feed birds & the root systems that absorb & cleanse water for a healthy watertable. Towns & cities that treat the meadow as an eyesoar are the result of culturally & individually mentally ill patterns of behavior & lawmaking, finding any excuse to encourage lawns over meadows, insisting natural wildlife are only vermin, contributing to the extinction of local species of wildlife & creating water run-offs that pollute streams, rivers, & coastlines & deplete or toxify the water table.
I call for an Urban & Suburban Meadow Movement to villainize lawn loonies, get rid of envirophobic laws that prohibit meadows, & uphold a greater standard that values native flora in every empty lot & along every greenmargin, & which views a single-species flat mowed lawn as the unsightly destructive force that it seriously & actually is.
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