The Somewhat Greener Grass of Home
A couple of years ago the City of
public service campaign encouraging its property owners not to bag their grass
clippings and put them out with the trash. The persuasive argument stated that
sheared clipping were 70-per-cent water anyway and that they would quickly dry
up on lawns and act as mulch. This free mulch would keep tonnes of waste from
making like more sardines in landfill. I bought in, the premise seemed
Urban Albertans mow their lawns about 12 times a year by my count. The frequency diminishes as spring and summer dwindle into late September. I’ve always enjoyed the chore because I can get a lot of thinking done, multi-task as it were, but was pleased to learn it was now acceptable to skip a step. I was also mildly taken aback by the fact that something I’d been raised and taught to do was now wrong, but wasn’t always wrong because nobody knew better back then and had never considered the consequences of trying to dispose of hundreds of thousands of giant plastic bags of grass clippings year after year. The flame of enlightenment was tiny, it wasn’t “You mean Earth isn’t flat and the sun doesn’t revolve around it!?” Still, it gave me pause while mowing a diagonal pattern in the backyard. What else do I believe that is hopelessly misguided?
The City’s slogan was WE GO BAGLESS, sort of lame cheeky, saucy, ‘going commando,’ a smiley faced official spin on a slackening of standards. One morning, I left the house and encountered an election-style ‘bagless’ lawn sign on the property. I was a tad disturbed because I’d no idea who’d put it there. Also, was this promoting an initiative or just shaming my neighbours? Or both? Ironically, the sign was silk screened onto corrugated plastic. Plastic is indestructible, it won’t fade away into organic molecules like grass clippings. Any action whether progressive or regressive will always be accompanied by a retinue of unforeseen issues and consequences.
This town, my town, perched on both majestic banks of the meandering
North Saskatchewan River
is gorgeous, a very fine place to live, renowned for its setting and extensive
greenspaces. In 2015
ceased the use of herbicides in the city’s parks and on its boulevards. One of
the rationales was that some of the city’s citizens were allergic to chemicals.
My take on that was, “Too bad, cope with it,” because I’ve learned over the
years that if you peel away the layers of most do-good complainers and
self-described activists, you will often hit a deep vein, a mother lode, of
narrow self-interest. The second City rationale was the mounting and unintended
scourge of herbicides on the world’s bee population. Bees are a vital element
in the planet’s complex ecosystem; everything’s connected. I bought that
argument, albeit with reservations. Edmonton
The result has been unbecoming for a provincial capital.
now appears neglected in a post-apocalyptic kind of way. Dandelions and noxious
weeds have partied like it’s 1899. I’m convinced too that a fair number of
citizens take their cue from the City. If municipal properties look shabby,
then who cares about smaller tracts of private property? Unsurprisingly,
addressing one problem has created another problem that needs addressing. So it
The proposed solution is either insanely clever or bat-shit crazy. I haven’t made up my mind because I can’t get past Julie Andrews warbling, “Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo,” the lusty words of the lonely goatherd. The City’s latest weed control pilot project involves 200 goats, herders mounted on horseback, guard dogs to ward off curious coyotes and temporary fencing because goats apparently tend to wander rather than stand and graze like sheep.
Our over-reliance on fossil fuels and petroleum products has led to a near disastrous state of planetary affairs in something less than a blink of an eye in cosmological time. The internal combustion engine alone is responsible for dehumanizing urban design. We plan and build and maintain our cities to accommodate cars, not people. But I can confidently state that the streets of my town are no longer unsanitary quagmires of mud and horse shit.