Live Free! (Kill Your Lawn)

Americans love their lawns. They spend $40 billion per year—more than the gross national product of most countries—to create the perfect lawn.  Taken together, all these lawns would cover the entire state of Kentucky.  Lawns are everywhere, from trailer parks and executive mansions to businesses, churches, and recreational areas.  American agronomists have created so many grass varieties that some types of lawn can be grown in all 50 states.  The spread of lawns has steadily increased since World War II and has reached a frenzied peak during the last two decades, as aggressive suburbanization converts almost 400,000 acres of land per year to lawns.

Suburbanization is what really changed America’s attitude toward grass.  The rapid spread of housing and mass transportation driven by cheap oil and newfound wealth created a landscape revolution.  What was once a preoccupation for the wealthy quickly became a universal status symbol for an upwardly mobile nation.  Before the lawn revolution, the average yard was a concatenation of shrubs, trees, weeds, and vegetable gardens, or simply plain dirt that was periodically swept.  By the late 1950’s, these odd and eccentric yards, which varied greatly according to region and climate, were increasingly being standardized by the spread of grass.  Lawns became so large and widespread that they spawned an entire industry providing...

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