After attending Professor Jenkins’ lecture on Thursday, where he discussed the great follies in the current suburban lawn paradigm, I decided to embark on a small scale journalistic opportunity to see what drives the American public towards a perfectly manicured lawn. Waking up to the loud and buzzing sound of lawn mowers on Saturday morning, I decided to take a small morning walk to see exactly what people did to their lawns and to possibly question some neighbors regarding their peculiar habits and practices. After walking down the .3 mile stretch of road that leads to my house – which accounts for exactly 19 houses – I noticed that 6 houses were engaged in lawn mowing, 3 were spraying Round-Up, and 2 were using leaf blowers to clear some leaves and grass residues – probably left after mowing the lawn. In all, 11 out of 19 houses were occupied in some lawn related activity. I quickly realized that Professor Jenkins was not joking when he said that the weekend of the average American male was to simply do lawn maintenance, watch football, and do some more lawn maintenance.
Mustering up the courage, I decided to confront 2 people and ask them why they believed lawn maintenance was so vital to their everyday lives. The first neighbor I approached was one that was notoriously known to cut his grass every week, without fail. I asked, “Why do you cut your grass so often.” He answered, “The same reason you cut your hair so often.” I stood there in an awkward moment of silence. “Surely this cannot be his reason,” I told myself. I then went on and said, “So, you mow your lawn every week so that it looks good?” He replied, “Yes, a mown lawn is a man’s way of showing that he is responsible and has a good life.” I could not believe what I had just heard. This response was a regurgitation of the typical 1960’s suburban family when the media used to portray the idea that “the state of one’s lawn was considered a public declaration of one’s allegiance to the American Dream (Jenkins, 2011, pg. 172).” In other words, “a manicured lawn was the clearest possible sign that a home owner was both honorable and trustworthy – that is to say, not a communist (Jenkins, 2011, pg. 172).” This prehistoric rhetoric clearly shows how brainwashed our society has become in terms of lawn maintenance – people cut their grass simply as a status symbol.
The second person I approached was a typical “green lawn addict.” This man had the uncontrolled addiction to a lawn that exempted a perfect dark green hue, had no signs of crabgrass, and was extremely soft to the touch. In other words, this is the classic suburban man that yells at children for walking on his grass. As I approached him, I asked, “Why do you spray so many chemicals on your lawn? Did you know that not only are those chemicals bad for you and the environment, but a perfectly green lawn fosters almost no eco-diversity (Jenkins, 2011, pg. 190)?” He replied, “Who would want vermin in their lawns anyway? My lawn is mine alone. I want to be able to sit on my property without being bothered by other creatures that don’t belong.” I then tried to explain that different bird species are suffering, quoting from Professor Jenkins’ book that “wood thrush is down 48 percent, the bobwhite is down 80 percent, and bobolinks are down 90 percent (Jenkins, 2011, pg. 191-192).” His reply to the statistical barrage was one that I will remember forever: “So what! Less birds means less bird poop.”
Although disappointing, the investigative study proved to be extremely valuable and eye-opening. I found that the main drivers behind the classic manicured lawn is the combination of primitive human dominance over nature, the prehistoric cultural correlation between success and aestheticism, and the mere ignorance of the public to the wider consequences of their actions. The two individuals I confronted exemplified the notion that our public seems to be caught in a trance that leads them to “maintain an image of their country that is at least a hundred years out of date (Jenkins, 2011, pg. 190).” In order to truly make a difference in terms of public and ecological health, we must first re-evaluate the current consumer culture and focus our efforts on education. Education will lead to an increase in awareness, an increase in responsibility, and the proper prioritization/allocation of resources. Birds cannot be solely remembered for their white excrement, but must be appreciated for their valuable contribution to the ecosystem.