Get through the history of the lawn and recent reactions to drought in California (see here, here, and here) and read one conclusion about the fate of the American lawn:
Maybe we really are in a new era. Maybe it will signal the end of our love affair with lawns. Maybe the new national landscape—a shared vision that inspires and enforces collective responsibility for a shared world—will take on a new kind of wildness. Maybe, as the billboards dotting California’s highways cheerily insist, “Brown Is the New Green.” Maybe the yard of the future will feature wildflowers and native grasses and succulent greenery, all jumbled together in assuring asymmetry. Maybe we will come to find all that chaos beautiful. Maybe we will come to shape our little slices of land, if we’re lucky enough to have them, in a way that pays tribute to the America that once was, rather than the one we once willed.
Here are four reasons why I think this will take some time – if indeed a majority of Americans do get rid of their lawns in the next few decades:
- What California has experienced hasn’t hit many other states. For much of the country, this drought is still an abstraction.
- Americans associate their green lawn with their single-family home with kids and all the success that the lawn and home symbolize. This is a simplification with some validity: the green lawn = the American Dream. This is why so many neighborhoods and communities fuss about and fine lawns that don’t look good.
- The lawn industry will fight back. Yes, the lawn industry has a lot invested in this and could develop varieties of lawn that need less water as well as champion alternatives that they can sell.
- A return to “nature” in our yards isn’t exactly real nature. It is another human modified version. Some replacements for lawn could take less work than the perfect grass lawn – but others will still require a good amount of maintenance. And I’m not sure how many homeowners really want truly untended yards.