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  • In 2015, 75-year old Gerry Suttle was sitting on her porch watching the leaves rustle in

  • the trees when a cop rolled up and handed her an arrest warrant.

  • The reason for her arrest?

  • She had failed to mow her lawn.

  • That's right.

  • The cops and Suttle's neighbors deemed it necessary to hold the threat of arrest over

  • this septuagenarian because the turf grass occupying the space in front of her house

  • was left unchecked.

  • How did we in the United States come to this?

  • Why is the lawn such a sacred space in white suburban america?

  • This is the story of the American lawn.

  • How it came to be, the complex underpinnings of its green blades, and how we might work

  • to rid ourselves from its cultural grasp.

  • This video is sponsored by CuriosityStream, which now comes with Nebula for free when

  • you sign up using the link in the description.

  • A Brief History of Lawns: In the 17th and 18th century, landholding

  • european aristocrats were getting jealous.

  • They saw beautiful fields of grass and perfectly trimmed patches of green in the paintings

  • of their favorite artists and wanted all of it for themselves.

  • So, they began to terraform their world.

  • With the enclosure of common land, aristocrats gained prime property for lawns and forced

  • lower class peasants into wage labor jobs like groundskeepers and gardeners.

  • From France, to Italy, to England, the wealthy ruling class embraced the luxuries of turf

  • grass and used it as a foundational element in landscaping design for their manors.

  • And what could be more a display of capitalist power, of leisure, and of wealth than a field

  • of green that had to be closely watched and tended by former peasants forced into wage

  • labour through land enclosures.

  • It was a way for these English elites to show off that they were so wealthy that they

  • didn't need their land to grow food.”

  • That's author of Lawn People, Paul Robbins, on the podcast 99% Invisible.

  • He goes on to add that the English ruling class used lawns to show thatthey could

  • afford to let their fields go fallow, and could afford to keep grazing animals and scythe-wielding

  • peasants to keep it short.”

  • The lawn began as a display of wealth for the white european aristocracy, but then was

  • quickly exported to the colonial project that is the United States.

  • Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington enjoyed wide manicured lawns kept perfectly

  • trimmed by the forced labor of enslaved people.

  • But it wasn't until the 1870s, when the push lawn mower, the sprinkler, and the suburbs

  • all sprouted into the American lifestyle that the lawn became a reality among those outside

  • the ruling class.

  • Having already been established as a symbol of luxury and leisure, the lawn was adopted

  • in the outskirts of cities and soon turned into a symbol of conformity as well.

  • Through advertisement after advertisement, and eventually neighborhood codes and laws,

  • a patch of grass in front your house became a staple in the image of the American dream.

  • But in the 100 years following the Civil War, the lawn was only slowly taking up space.

  • After World War II, however, the adoption of the American lawn exploded.

  • Soldiers came home from war, suburban sprawl accelerated at an astronomical pace, and the

  • chemicals used in the trenches now found their way onto plants and insects.

  • With the suburban boom came the boom in lawn culture.

  • We even see this in the deluge of lawn ads in magazines around that time period.

  • With thousands of Americans now proud owners of lawns, chemicals of war rebranded themselves

  • into pesticides and herbicides to keep the grass green.

  • And by the 1960s, this chemical warfare got so bad that Rachel Carson noticed the death

  • of birds all around her, prompting her to write Silent Spring.

  • But those that predominantly benefited from the generous post-WWII government programs

  • like the GI Bill and guaranteed home loans that fueled the adoption of the lawn were

  • white.

  • In short, the suburban lawn was very much a white American reality.

  • In fact, throughout its transformation and expansion, the monoculture suburban lawn worked

  • in tandem with its owners to crowd out any plant, animal, or human that didn't fit

  • within their definition of beauty, conformity, or civilization.

  • The lawn was (and still is) a tool of colonialism: The lawn quite literally allowed rich white

  • american colonists, and then middle class suburban whites to physically enact colonization

  • of land.

  • While indigenous genocide raged, cows brought from europe ravenously ate the native varieties

  • of grasses, but colonists quickly realized their cattle were unsuitable for American

  • terrain.

  • The European cows just couldn't get enough nutrients from native american grasses.

  • So, the colonists brought Europe to the Americas and planted the seeds of european grasses

  • which sprouted out of the ground and pushed out native prairie, plants and animals.

  • In short, the origins of American turf grass are rooted in the colonial terraforming of

  • indigenous land, an act which, in a small way, legitimized the wholesale theft of land

  • in the minds of white Europeans because it now looked much more like the European countryside

  • they were used to.

  • Much in the same way the United States massacred the buffalo, a staple food source highly important

  • to indigenous plains nations, as well as forced the assimilation of thousands of indigenous

  • children at violent boarding schools that quite literally tried to beat any cultural

  • or linguistic heritage out of them, so to did the they use European grass varieties

  • like Kentucky Bluegrass, to transform their landscape into one that fit their white european

  • vision of the world.

  • But the lawn is not only wielded as a tool of cultural destruction, but it also is fueling

  • multiple environmental crises.

  • Lawns are fueling environmental destruction: Now, in the midst of droughts and the climate

  • crisis, turf grass lawns are starting to look a lot less appealing to own, let alone spend

  • time to manicure.

  • In the United States, the emissions from lawn maintenance equipment like gas-powered mowers

  • account for 4% of the country's total annual carbon emissions.

  • This number is so large because turf grass is the largest crop by area in the United

  • States.

  • Lawns occupy 40 million acres of land in the United States which is roughly three times

  • the area of America's second biggest crop: corn.

  • And all of this grass requires a massive amount of water as well.

  • Every single day, U.S. lawn owners collectively pour 9 billion gallons of freshwater onto

  • their lawns to keep them green.

  • A lot of this water often hits sidewalks or roads, rarely making it into the roots of

  • plants and often running off into local waterways, carrying all the chemicals that American lawn

  • owners' use on their grass.

  • According to the EPA, lawn owners douse their lawns with 78 million pounds of pesticides

  • and 90 million pounds of fertilizer every single year.

  • Traces of these chemicals are not only ending up in waterways and our drinking water, but

  • they're shredding animal and insect populations like the monarch butterfly.

  • And these are not only harmful to plants and insects, some lawn care equipment like RoundUp

  • has been linked to cancer in a number of its human users.

  • We are quite literally ravaging the planet and ourselves to maintain a little patch of

  • green in front of our houses.

  • And in some cases, like Gerrry Suttle, it's forced on us by cops and the state.

  • The lawn, with its history of class, race, and colonial oppression combined with its

  • penchant for ecological destruction, must die.

  • But to do that we must provide real alternatives that not only replace the grass below our

  • feet but also repair the harm caused by American capitalist conquest.

  • Lawn alternatives: Understanding that lawns are intimately linked

  • with visions of class, settler-colonialism, and capitalist ecological destruction is essential

  • for developing effective and lasting alternatives.

  • If you own a lawn, the simplest thing you could do is to just stop taking care of it.

  • But I think that this approach should be seen as a last resort.

  • In order to repair the harm caused by centuries of lawn colonization, we need to develop real

  • alternatives.

  • Think about what we could do with that 40 million acres of space if we rid ourselves

  • of turf grass.

  • Front yard gardens with food available to all who want it, native perennials and gardens

  • that actually synthesize with the landscape, xeriscaping in dry climates that don't require

  • any water to maintain.

  • These endeavors are already happening, with thousands of backyard farms replacing lawns

  • across the country, a recent Southern California incentive paying residents to rip up their

  • lawn, or Taylor Keen, one of the Omaha people who's been developing and growing indigenous

  • seed varieties in his boom backyard gardens.

  • These are the actions we need to take.

  • Because, to start the process of decolonization and thriving in a zero carbon world, the lawn

  • must die.

  • If you're watching this video wondering whether there are more people getting arrested

  • for not mowing their lawns or you just want to learn a bit more about the connection between

  • lawns and settler colonialism, you're in luck.

  • I actually did write an extra section about lawn control and settler colonialism, but

  • it got left on the cutting room floor.

  • So I've uploaded that section as an extended edition of this video on the streaming platform

  • my creator friends and I built called Nebula.

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In 2015, 75-year old Gerry Suttle was sitting on her porch watching the leaves rustle in

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Why Lawns Must Die

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    joey joey に公開 2021 年 06 月 24 日
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