From April to December, I wake up not to the sounds of birds singing, but of lawn mowers and leaf blowers. I peer outside my window and see the neighbors ready to make their lawns immaculate. Sometimes I wonder who they are trying to impress.
In the summer, instead of sweet flowers, I smell the fumes of noxious chemicals being poured over turf lawns. Sprinklers at full blast to make sure the grass grows green and tall, but not too tall or else off with their heads! We drag out our lawn mowers, while glaring at the enemy. Fill it up with gas, pull that cord, and off we go. Nature is no match for us.
Dramatic? Yes, but true. So true. None of this makes any sense to me. Our habit creates a wasteful cycle of time, energy, and resources. And that’s not mentioning how our weekend obsession adds to the destruction of our natural habitat.
Now that it is mid-November, instead of lawn mowers, the sounds have been replaced with leaf blowers.
When I look out, all I see is an army of Terminators that have taken over my street. Machines strapped to backs, ready to wage war on nature. Habitats be damned! Hours of blowing leaves back and forth, back and forth. Blowing from one edge of the street to the next. Stuffing them in bags then sending them to landfills. Plumes of smoke and the smell of fumes tells me they won the war in creating a “litter” free lawn.
But why? Why are we doing this? Who says this is what beauty looks like? And at what cost?
This fall, you will not see a rake in my hand. We are leaving the leaves. If you drive past our home, one might conclude that we’re lazy or don’t care about our lawn, but quite the contrary.
Fallen leaves provide shelter for wildlife, including native insects, and pollinators to hibernate over the winter. You want butterflies and bees? Leave the leaves. You want to hear the songbirds sing? Then leave the leaves so they have insects to eat. Leaves provide nutrients to our garden beds and can turn into rich compost that benefits our soil without fertilizers. Shouldn’t we be listening to their name? They are called ‘leaves’ not ‘take aways.’
My yard may look unkempt, but I don’t care. I’m doing it for all of us, and that includes wildlife. Let’s stop trying to tame the wild. Let’s change our habits so we can learn to live with nature, not against it.
This presentation was created for my environmental ethics capstone project. It follows my journey of how our garden became certified as a national wildlife habitat and what the steps to get certified are.
A little bit about the video:
How can we rethink the idea of what our lawn should be? Instead of pouring harmful fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides onto our lawns just to cut them down, can we change the way we define what a beautiful lawn is?
How can we all be "ecolutionary renegades" like Ron Finley encourages and take back our yards. Instead of having a monoculture of grass, let's fill it with productive garden beds, wildflowers and native plants that help sequester carbon emissions and help the environment. Let's create a natural habitat for the wildlife around us.
I believe we can solve big problems with local solutions. All it takes is for each of us to take just one step. This is why I am starting the conversation and retelling the story of what beauty is in a garden.
Hope you enjoy!