Stop Mowing the Lawn

I grew up mowing a huge, lousy lawn. My family lived on an acre of land on top of a hill that we mowed shaggy, too spiky to walk barefoot. There was a cornfield on one side. On the other side was our neighbor, Mr. Howland, Ned Flanders, a lawn maintainer. He planted his lawn with beautiful golf course grade grass, mowed and sprayed it weekly, and even rolled it out like a Zamboni driver in the offseason.

Mr. Howland’s lawn infuriated me. I worried about this every time I carefully drove the mower around a deer nest in the unkempt grass, and when I mowed along the border of the property, wincing at the sheer contrast of Gufus and Gallantry. After the haircut, I stepped on our brown barbed stubble and took off my shoes on Mr. Howland’s lawn.

Well, well, well: it turns out we had a morally correct lawn. It would be more correct if we cut even less and let the grass grow to its natural height, or give up part of the backyard to a wild field of pheasant grass. We didn’t have to be ashamed of dandelions, brown spots, or land birds.

As Ted Steinberg and Shannon Wright of The Nib explain in their comic I Hate Mowing Your Lawn? Good! Don’t do it, ”a regularly mowed lawn is a recent invention that only became popular in the United States after World War II. Its rapid expansion, driven by lawn care companies and dependent on invasive grass species, consumes nearly 20 trillion gallons of water per year, 50 to 75% of a home’s water consumption each summer. While lawns, like any other plant, absorb greenhouse gases, the energy expended in caring for them negates any benefits . Reducing lawn maintenance is one of the easiest ways to reduce the impact of climate change. You will burn less fossil fuels and taller grass will hold more moisture .

So I’m winning the long game, Mr. Howland. And I know that you have mowed down our strip of property.

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