I’ve long maintained that the American lawn is one of the greatest mass brainwashings of all time. How we all voluntarily signed up to spend untold hours growing and cutting a nonnative monoculture of green which we lace with poisons to kill plants and insects never ceases to amaze. And of all people, we sportsmen should see through this.
According to an article in The Columbus Dispatch, Sarah Baker of Alexandria, Ohio, has defined the American lawn as well as neatly as anybody I’ve come across:
“A mowed lawn, put simply, is habitat loss. It’s a barren wasteland that provides no food or shelter for wildlife. It’s a virtual green desert.”
Baker wrote this letter to the town’s longtime zoning inspector, Tom Frederick. He is bringing the full force of the law to bear in an effort to compel her to mow her lawn. And it’s working. If she doesn’t, the township will have her yard—the whole ⅞ of an acre—declared a “nuisance property.” The township will mow it and send her the bill.
Just what is a nuisance property? According to the article, it’s one that doesn’t meet community standards and poses a risk to the community health, safety, and welfare.
Only in America would a property in its natural state, one that is not routinely doused with pesticides and herbicides—ones that have been linked to higher rates of cancer in children—be a risk to the health of the community.
Isn’t this kind of a judgment call? One in which there might be a tiny loophole, one through which a tiny ray of common sense might sneak?
Evidently not. “Yes it’s a judgment call, and it’s my judgement,” says Frederick.
In her letter appealing to the town’s trustees, Baker wrote, “As Christians, getting to do this, turning our property into a sanctuary, is an opportunity to be a good steward to God. Having to mow that property would feel like a violation of my values.”
Baker maintains that she spends more time maintaining her yard than most of her mowing neighbors by pulling up weeds that the state itself has declared noxious—burdock, thistle, and ragweed.
But maybe I’m missing the point, which is to make things easy for the people enforcing the law. Frederick says enforcement agents need a standard they can apply evenly. And an unmowed yard doesn’t do that. It complicates things. Otherwise, suggests the article, allowing the lawn to stand as is would mean that township inspectors would have to “become botanists who go yard to yard with a Peterson Field Guide determining which plants are native and which are noxious.”
One shudders at the prospect. Although—I speak from experience here—if you spend just a couple of hours outside with your Peterson, you’ll know which weeds are the bad guys.
But, as Frederick points out, if Sarah Baker’s ⅞ of an acre is allowed to grow taller than the mandated 8 inches, what’s to prevent another homeowner from doing the same? Maybe somebody with a full acre. Or more.
We all know what would happen then. The grid would go down. There would be social chaos. And all the toilet paper and milk on store shelves everywhere would be gone in 60 seconds. We’d also have a safer, healthier environment, and we’d buy less gas and pollute the air and water a bit less, all the while creating more habitat for birds and other animals. And the zoning inspectors would have to find something to do that actually mattered.
Photo by CJ Sorg.