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WhyMow - [From Michael Pollans collection of essays Second...

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[From Michael Pollan’s collection of essays Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (NY: Grove Press, 1991). Originally published in New York Times Magazine May 28, 1989. ] Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns _____________________ Michael Pollan No lawn is an island, at least in America. Starting at my front stoop, this scruffy green carpet tumbles down a hill and leaps across a one-lane road into my neighbor's yard. From there it skips over some wooded patches and stone walls before finding its way across a dozen other unfenced properties that lead down into the Housatonic Valley, there to begin its march south toward the metropolitan area. Once below Danbury, the lawn-now purged of weeds and meticulously coiffed-races up and down the suburban lanes, heedless of property lines. It then heads West, crossing the New York border; moving now at a more stately pace, it strolls beneath the maples of Larchmont, unfurls across a dozen golf 'courses, and wraps itself around the pale blue pools of Scarsdale before pressing on toward the Hudson. New Jersey next is covered, an emerald postage stamp laid down front and back of ten thousand split-levels, before the broadening green river divides in two. One tributary pushes south, striding across the receptive hills of Virginia and Kentucky but refusing to pause until it has colonized the thin, sandy soils of Florida. The other branch dilates and spreads west, easily overtaking the Midwest's vast grid before running up against the inhospitable western states. But neither obdurate soil nor climate will impede the lawn's march to the Pacific: it vaults the Rockies and, abetted by a monumental irrigation network, proceeds to green great stretches of western desert. Nowhere in the world are lawns as prized as in America. In little more than a century, we've rolled a green mantle of it across the continent, with scant thought to the local conditions or expense. America has some 50,000 square miles of lawn under cultivation, on which we spend an estimated $30 billion a year—this according to the Lawn institute, a Pleasant Hill, Tennessee, outfit devoted to publicizing the benefits of turf to Americans (surely a case of preaching to the converted). Like the interstate highway system, like fast-food chains, like television, the lawn has served to unify the American landscape; it is what makes the suburbs of Cleveland and Tucson, the streets of Eugene and Tampa, look more alike than not. According to Ann Leighton, the late historian of gardens, America has made essentially one important contribution to world garden design: the custom of "uniting the front lawns of however many houses there may be on both sides of a street to present an untroubled aspect of expansive green to the passerby." France has its formal, geometric gardens, England its picturesque parks, and America this unbounded democratic river of manicured lawn along which we array our houses.
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