Presentation: Lawns&Suburbs- Lia Soorenian

The Physical Affects Of Lawns:

  • Pesticide use leads to unclean water
  • Need for heavy amounts of irrigation of clean water
  • Carbon sink and pollution from lawn mowers

Cultural Affects:

  • Suburbs
  • Red lining
  • American Dream

Alternatives:

  • Wheat micro-farms
  • Community gardens
  • Porches VS lawns
Interestingly enough, the west coast has far more lawns than does the east coast. The reason for this is because of how much more suburbs there are on in cities such as Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and San Diego. According to David Owen’s Green Metropolis, cities are much more sustainable when they happen to be more densely populated. Los Angeles happens to be a large county without any clear, defiant borders to distinguish cities from suburbs. Therefore, almost every city is a suburb of another suburb. Unfortunately, this becomes extremely wasteful as people are forced to drive everywhere, live in larger residential areas, and use less resources. Owen compares New York City to the rest of the states in America and proves that even though New York is extremely congested, the city and its people have a far smaller carbon footprint than do the residents of other places in the nation.

Interestingly enough, the west coast has far more lawns than does the east coast. The reason for this is because of how much more suburbs there are on in cities such as Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and San Diego. According to David Owen’s Green Metropolis, cities are much more sustainable when they happen to be more densely populated. Los Angeles happens to be a large county without any clear, defiant borders to distinguish cities from suburbs. Therefore, almost every city is a suburb of another suburb. Unfortunately, this becomes extremely wasteful as people are forced to drive everywhere, live in larger residential areas, and use less resources. Owen compares New York City to the rest of the states in America and proves that even though New York is extremely congested, the city and its people have a far smaller carbon footprint than do the residents of other places in the nation.

The most important part of John’s argument would be his criticism on the status quo. Because the majority of the society believes that lawns are part of what home ownerships is about, they do not bother to change their mentality. Unfortunately, the proposal to remove all lawns would be seen as “ordinary” and therefore people would not be open to such a “huge” change. As mentioned earlier, lawns have wormed their way into being part of the consumer-like American Dream and the American culture.

The use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers for maintaining lawns has proven to be extremely harmful for our living environment. Pesticides are composed of toxic chemicals which seep into bodies of water such as rivers and lakes through runoff. This results in hypoxia as the nitrogen levels of the water increases and becomes excess. The next step creates eutrophication and causes an imbalances of nitrates and nitrites which limit the amount of dissolved oxygen in lakes. The surface of the lake is then completely covered with a layer of algae which prevents sunlight to hit the benthic, or the bottom, of the lake. Consequently, the living organisms such as the fish, end up dying because of the lack of oxygen and sunlight. This process is most common in farms that are near bodies of water. Also, the toxic chemicals seep into our groundwater which can potentially be extremely unhealthy. As a result, our drinking water ends up becoming dirty. In a study done at the Chesapeake Bay, both urban and agricultural use of land proved to be the cause of an increase of nitrogen levels in the Bay. Because of the runoff of water from the drainage, the effluent ends up in our natural habitat and as seen in the case of Chesapeake Bay, causes eutrophication in lakes. The contribution of effluent from urban land use can be reversed and easily eliminated by the removal of lawns.

The most important part of John’s argument would be his criticism on the status quo. Because the majority of the society believes that lawns are part of what home ownerships is about, they do not bother to change their mentality. Unfortunately, the proposal to remove all lawns would be seen as “ordinary” and therefore people would not be open to such a “huge” change. As mentioned earlier, lawns have wormed their way into being part of the consumer-like American Dream and the American culture.
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2 Comments to “Presentation: Lawns&Suburbs- Lia Soorenian”

  1. Many suburban areas have rules and regulations to homeowners’ lawns – whether or not they may have a fence, how far away they are allowed to plant trees, to what extent they can extend their front porch etc. – in your research did you come across instances of people going against this ‘american culture of consumerism’ and the ‘american dream’ lawn? If so, what did they attempt to do (how did they envision re-inventing their front lawns?) and what obstacles did they have to overcome? Did anyone succeed?

    We ripped out some dying shrubbery in our front lawn this past year and planted a tomato garden. The only way we got away with this was that we didn’t tell anyone beforehand. We found out that most people in our development didn’t know that they were actually tomato plants and we got a few sympathy comments from dog walkers saying how sorry they were that our flowers weren’t blooming as well as on their own front pathways. When one woman inquired, I told her that they were tomatoes. First she laughed, then she realized I was serious and gave her husband an unsettled look and continued along the sidewalk. The patch of soil we used for our little tomato garden is right up against the house and not connected to the lawn which I suppose is a good thing. Many of my neighbors use heavy duty pesticides on their lawns and I could definitely see that even if the rules about not having a front garden weren’t enforced, there would be an issue of chemical contamination from the other lawns.

  2. I’m so glad to hear that you and your family have chosen to take the initiative to grow tomatoes rather than turf grass! And yes, although there are several oppositions towards this “radical” idea of vegetable gardens instead of lawns, I did encounter an article which discusses several different individuals who are also growing their owns food. I will be glad to discuss this in class as well. Here is the link: http://thebetterhealthstore.com/Newsletter/05-30_MayNews02.html

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