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(HOST) Here’s commentator Ruth Page who’s fed up with lawn care, but not for the reasons you might suspect.

(PAGE) We Americans spend forty billion dollars just taking care of our lawns every year. Forty billion! It hardly seems possible, and it certainly doesn’t seem sensible. That’s more than the total domestic product of the country of Vietnam. Just for lawns.

Michael Pollan may be the best-known opponent of our love affair with short grass, having written books on the subject, but lots of others think we’re nuts, to put it bluntly; I think indeed we are.

Our local paper here in northern Vermont had a big story recently pointing out that our Parks Department has spent eleven thousand dollars more on fuel for mowing parks this year than it did last year. And those mowers, like our gas mowers at home, are putting more and more greenhouse gases into the air all the time.

As I drive around the seven miles from Shelburne to Burlington I pass several immense lawns, the biggest ones fronting businesses. What the dickens are they doing with acres of lawn? Do they like wasting money? If they can’t afford to dot trees and bushes all around their current lawn space, to clean the air and serve small wildlife, they could at least let the grass grow and just mow paths here and there through it; it would offer some wild flowers, including some rather attractive weeds and would need only occasional cutting back.

High gas prices may have a favorable impact not only on our driving habits, but on our affection for lawns. Lawn-love, we should realize, is simply a phase we’re going through; lawns certainly aren’t typical of most of the world. When I speak of this to friends, they usually respond, “But lawns are so pretty.”

Yet there were countless centuries before that fashion started. And that’s what it is – a fashion. We’re used to flat, perfect, green-grass areas without weeds and consider them lovely. Why?

They’re certainly not natural: to make them weed-free we use harmful chemical mixes – poisons. If they weren’t poisons, they wouldn’t kill the weeds. Companies that sell the chemicals, and provide trucks and technicians to spread the poisons, make no bones about it. They remind us with little signs, to keep pets and children off newly-sprayed lawns. Lawn companies don’t kill weeds by hand; they poison them to death.

I’ll admit we Pages had some lawns at our former home, but we used an electric mower and we never fed or watered the grass. Sure it developed weeds, but keeping it mowed meant it was just green, and that was enough. And we had trees and three food gardens, so we didn’t feel too guilty about the indulgence.

What could be more boring than to look down a suburban street and see square after square of precise, weed-free, well mown lawn all the way from corner to corner? Wouldn’t it be more enlivening to see berry bushes, fruit trees, or even attractive ground covers? Ah, well – who asks me?

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