Worried About Mass Extinction? Kill Your Lawn

A UN report released today reveals that 1 million species are threatened with extinction thanks to human actions (as in you). The most effective thing we can do is vote out politicians who hate the future, but that takes time and we need to act now. Immediately you can stop buying from water-destroying corporations like Nestle or, if you own a lawn, kill it. This might seem like an odd idea at first; however, once you stop and think about what a lawn is you will find that they are bad for the planet.

Seriously, if you want to stop the mass die off of species and you own land then make that land supportive of local species instead of a monument to human hubris.

A lawn filled with native plants provides habitat for animals, from insects to birds and everything in between. A lawn that’s used to produce food could feed your family, boost neighborhood-level community, and provide jobs (if you don’t have a green thumb). When you run the numbers, it turns that almost anything is better than a grass lawn — except pavement.

My lawn’s days as a grass-based environmental scourge are numbered. I have big plans for my outdoor area: Fruit trees, garden space, native plants. It’s small enough that this project should be manageable, even for a single parent with two small kids.

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Kansas is Growing Roadside Grass

small car

Highways are loved in America due to their ability to allow single occupant vehicles to move uninterrupted, thus they crisscross the entirety of the United States. This makes for a lot of land covered by asphalt, cars spattering litter, brake dust, exhaust onto the roadside, and large swaths of manicured grass. The highway side grass is expensive to maintain (people need to be paid to cut the grass) and does little to deal with the exhaust blasting out of automobiles. Kansas as a solution to this grassy knoll – better grass. Kernza is being tested on a Kansas highway because it requires barely any landscaping and captures more carbon than regular grass.

The plant was bred at the Kansas-based Land Institute from a type of wheatgrass related to wheat, but unlike more common grains, like corn, wheat, and barley, it grows perennially, rather than having to be plowed and replanted every year. As it grows, its roots stretch as far as 10 feet underground, helping make the plant more resilient, preventing erosion, and capturing more carbon in the soil.

The plant was highlighted in Paul Hawken’s book Project Drawdown as an effective tool for fighting climate change. Hawken, who has connections to The Ray, helped introduce the organization to the plant. They’d previously considered growing other plants, such as bamboo, but realized that the roots of fast-growing bamboo could be destructive to pavement.

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The Oppression of Lawns

The concept of a lawn at a residence has a short, but rich, history. Basically, the rich had large estates and to demonstrate their wealth they had large swaths of land not used for cultivation. Today there are still people trying to show off their wealth by owning large lands of uselessness. Things seem to be changing though as people eschew their lawns – some people replace it with something good and others just don’t care about the class association.

Remember that lawns are something you can make a choice about: you can live in a place without the unnecessary space, in hot climates you can try xeriscaping, you can make your landscape green, or you can look into a long list of lawn alternatives.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the traditional American lawn has come in for some scrutiny in recent years. Some, like Baker, are abandoning regular lawn maintenance out of environmental concerns — lawns require fertilizer to grow and gas to mow, and they take up space that could otherwise be used for animal habitat.

Other folks are ditching their lawns because of the amount of water they soak up — 9 billion gallons of it per dayaccording to the EPA. Think of the miracle that is the modern water supply — pristine water pumped hundreds of miles, passed through shiny state-of-the-art filtration systemstreated with miracle chemicals that keep our teeth from falling out of our heads, and available on-demand at the twist of a knob. And then consider that we intentionally dump billions of gallons of that water out on the ground!

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Ontario Banning ‘Cosmetic’ Pesticides

People in Ontario will have nicer grass to roll around in next year – except on golf courses and farmer’s fields. No, I have no idea how using pesticides on a golf courses aren’t classified as a cosmetic use, although golf course might still be subject to the law (I don’t know yet). The main thrust of the legislation is to ban the sale of consumer pesticides, municipal bans could be circumvented by buying the pesticides and using them anyway. Now that loophole will be closed.

The provincewide ban is aimed at replacing a patchwork of local pesticide bylaws, but Ontario farmers will be exempt. There’s no word yet if the province also plans to exempt golf courses from the ban.

The Conservatives and New Democrats said Monday they would likely support the legislation, but they first want to make sure the ban will actually help the environment and isn’t just a public relations move by the Liberal government.

“I think our inclination is to probably support it, but at the same time we want to hear from the folks who are experts in this area, and whether they think it’s all politics or whether there is going to be some meaningful benefit to the environment,” said Opposition Leader Bob Runciman.

Sod Off!

sod wheelSome enterprising grad students at Dalhousie in Halifax, Nova Scotia, have taken the park on the road. The architecture students were exploring the concept of public and green space and came up with this groovy way to always walk on the grass!

“”We’re looking at the idea of green space in the city,” said grad student Kevin James. “Even in the Public Gardens, you’re not allowed to walk on the grass.”

Halifax Downtown Coun. Dawn Sloane says they’re right, except for the Public Gardens statement. In fact, playing on the grass is allowed in the children’s area, but the problem is nobody knows about it.

“I think our biggest issue right now is that not only is our green space being utilized for some of the wrong reasons, but they’re under- utilized by the communities, and we do need more,” she said.”

The concept isn’t perfect because when the sod is over your head dirt falls on you. If the concept really dries up then maybe they’ll turn it into a hot tub.

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