This morning as Hannah and I were finishing our walk, I heard a loud noise coming from one of my neighbor’s back yard. Moving in for a closer look, I watched in horror as a giant machine ate up small trees like they were nothing more than blades of grass. Another neighbor was also watching and remarked that this neighbor really wanted to have a nice back yard and that this would help cut down on the mosquitos.
There are many good things that Europeans brought with them to the Americas, things like ship technology, the alphabet, the wheel, various fruits and vegetables, cows and sheep, but there are other things that weren’t quite as welcome, things like smallpox, measles, gunpowder and lawns.
Lawn care in North America is big business – more than 40 billion dollars are spent annually. In addition to all that money, the average homeowner spends 150 hours a year maintaining their lawn. This seems a little extravagant, but people do enjoy the greenery and puttering around the yard. Unfortunately, in excess of 10 times more herbicides per acre are dumped on lawns than on the fields of agribusiness. An estimated 7 million birds are killed each year by these pesticides and this practice has nearly decimated the honeybee population. Runoff from fertilizer used to create lush green lawns causes algae booms in lakes that remove all the oxygen from the water, suffocating the fish. Lastly, an estimated 30 – 60% of all fresh water in the United States is used to water lawns and gardens.
In Genesis 1:27-28, we read: 27 So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created them male and female, 28 blessed them, and said, “Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control. I am putting you in charge of the fish, the birds, and all the wild animals. Good News Translation
It doesn’t seem like what we’re doing is bringing the earth under our control and being in charge of the fish, birds, and wild animals. It seems like we’re on a very wide path of destruction, acting as though we can annihilate all these creatures with no repercussions to all the delicate ecosystems on the earth.
It seems that fish, birds, and animals aren’t the only ones suffering in our pursuit of the perfect lawn. Lawn mowers caused more than 250,000 injuries in 2010, more than 10,000 of which were injuries to children. Seems like having that lawn is pretty risky for humans, too.
Thankfully, there is a growing movement of people who are creating different types of lawns or turning their lawns into gardens. Yes, gardens still use a lot of water, but there’s something to show for it at the end! If you have a lawn, will you consider making some changes? Using native plants that use less water? Planting trees for shade and cleaner air? While there’s fun to be had on a nice green lawn, playing in a forest is an adventure. If we make it a habitat where birds can thrive, it just might cut down on that mosquito population.