Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise? by David Feldman (1987) was a popular book of questions and answers. I recently picked it up as a book that was good to read in short bursts. Of course, being me, I was attracted to the real estate stories found there. I grew up in a 1954 post-war development with houses that looked the same and tyrannical social norms around the state of the lawn. So, this question and answer struck me:
Question: Why do we grown lawns around our houses? Feldman answers (I summarize): 1. Lawns are pretty and people like them. They are a status symbol imported from Europe. 2. However, they are environmentally wasteful. Even in 1987 when this was published, lawns covered 25-30 million acres of America that could have been used for crop production. The average lawn, if used for fruits and vegetables, would yield two thousand 1987-dollars worth of crop.
3. Dr. John Falk believes that lawns make us feel secure. “For more than ninety percent of human history the savanna was home. Home equals safety, and that information has to be fairly hard-wired if the animal is going to respond to danger instantaneously.” Dr. Falk and John Balling, a psychologist, did studies where people were shown five different terrains. Savannas were chosen overwhelmingly, even by subject who had never seen one.
4. They not only mark status, but territory. Falk writes, “People create extensions of themselves, they see violations of their lawn as violation of their space.”
Back in my childhood home: by July, we were fed up with watering, mowing and weeding the lawn. By August, it was a source of family friction. Now, my brothers both still have big lawns. I don't. I have a tiny-tiny lot where I grow perennials and herbs. I guess my inner hunter-gatherer must accept feeling insecure.
Are lawns important to you? Do you think that lawns will continue to be the norm, or are things changing in your town?
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