Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Beware of your lawn! (its out to get you!)

When im talking to people about alternatives to the industrial food chain these conversations often turn to practical application and the sticking point that many people seem to get hung up on is the feasibility for implementing small, local food production, broadly enough to feed the size of our urban populations.

Recently ive been wondering: how many of the people who raise this type of objection maintain expansive lawns and how much work goes into their upkeep?

This is not a judgement upon them. I support the right of people to do whatever they want, as long as they aren't hurting anyone else. I know there are many ways i spend my time which would baffle many people so I try to refrain from casting aspersions against those who have invited the lawn parasite into their lives.

"Wait....did you say parasite?"
Yes. Sorry. Maybe I need to admit some bias here. 
Lawns creep me out. Seriously (sort of).
The individual plants are tiny and kept stunted, they aren't much to look at and seem harmless enough. Yet, in great masses, with collective strength they have created an incomprehensibly immense behemoth. This monster  has swallowed vast expanses of territory by exploiting  a one sided partnership in evolutionary development. 

What I mean is that for the most part, the majority of the plants we cultivate offer something in return for the work we do to help them grow. We provide safe spaces, protected from fires and frost and disease, and in return they offer us sustenance, health, well-being.

A lawn, on the other hand gives nothing in return except green outdoor rugs and a tenuous sense of accomplishment. Whats worse is it fools us into thinking we are getting the better end of the deal. It massages our egos, tricking us into feeding it and helping to spread its young among us!
In other words, to me, lawns have the feel of a starving parasite which has  taken control of our minds. You dont think such a thing is possible? Click the link and think again!

Of course these creepy weeds werent always so stunted and tawdry. All the empires of the earth owe their strength and power to grain producing vegetation. The great plains of the world were covered in majestic oceans of plants which fed grazing animals and in turn fed and clothed our long distant ancestors. These plants still feed us today and the common lawn grass finds kin among these great paragons of the plant world. 

But somewhere along the line humans were duped. They were seduced by something dark and calculating which appealed to the dark side of our nature. When agricultural production reached a level where it was able to support aristocratic classes, these ruling elites flaunted their status by cultivating inedible gardens to show that they were wealthy enough not to have to grow their own food. Majestic waves of grain where mowed continually, never allowed to mature and go to seed, creating ostentatious carpets of wealth on display.

The European aristocracy of old is largely gone, but the lawn has kept its hold on our collective conscious. By now it has worked its way into those parts of our being which  can take the strongest grip on our psyche: our pride and our desire for acceptance. The lawn gains its strength by leeching from our sense of community and solidarity. It takes center stage in the creation of our most powerful and dominant cultural narratives.

This has created a beast far more powerful than any other mind controlling parasite.
Your average zombifying microbe can only force itself on one organism at a time but the lawn has become master of many puppets. [tweet this].
OK OK, in all seriousness, the real point is that its important to identify the choices we make for one type of plant cultivation over another. Local, sustainable food production on a scale large enough to feed large populations seems to be untenable when we limit our imagination to the classic maladaptive farming model which we inherited from repressive feudal policies. But imagine if all the labor, time, materials and resources we pour into decorative front yards just for the sake of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses was spent growing our own food.....well the urban landscape would look a lot different and so would farms.

Yes,  you are right, no biologist would agree that there is a correlation between lawns and parasitism (...or would they?...*cue creepy music*)
Anyway, the important thing is that the lawn is part of a story about what's "normal" and its largely made up. As we all know there is no "normal".
in this story we choose between this:

and this:

Which is fine and again, I try not to judge but I think its important to keep in mind that for every lawn you and your neighbors tend, the food you eat gets pushed further away from you and the cost of this choice comes in the form of environmental burdens, compromised nutritional value and most importantly, the power of control over what you eat and how its grown.

In the two choices pictured above, the first is of a "food desert" where the population requires huge inputs to sustain itself. It is a hold over from an unsavory part of human history, the effects of which we are still struggling to recover from. The second picture is of a "food forest", producing a surplus of food with minimal to zero externalities. It is the possibility of a future where neighbors compete over the size and quality of their vegetables rather than squares of stunted grass.

I dont ask you to make any changes. just to think about this should you find yourself questioning the viability of local food production and its ability to feed us all.

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