Nature, the Enemy

In the July 21 issue of The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert takes on the lawn. “A NASA-funded study, which used satellite data collected by the Department of Defense,” she writes in “Turf War,” “determined that, including golf courses, lawns in the United States cover nearly 50,000 square miles—an area roughly the size of New York State. The same study concluded that most of this New York State-size lawn was growing in places where turfgrass should never have been planted. In order to keep all the lawns in the country well irrigated, the author of the study calculated, it would take an astonishing 200 gallons of water per person, per day.” She then proceeds to list the logical alternatives, from meadow to wildflowers to food. Well, nature is in the eyes of the beholder, it seems. In a letter in the September 1 issue, reader Michael Jorrin of Ridgefield, Conn., calls the suggestions “unrealistic. Don’t mow and let it revert to meadow? That’s not what happens. Our lawns are not planted with native grasses; what you’ll get is a hideous tangled, tick-infested mess that you won’t want to step into, and certainly won’t let your kids or dogs play in.”  And Samuel J. McNaughton of Syracuse, N.Y., takes the position, “If we were to let our lawns grow up, we provide attractive habitats for snakes, spiders, rodents, deer (the latter two spread Lyme disease), deer flies, mosquitoes, and other undesirable organisms.” Seems there is still an appetite out there to put nature in its place.

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