Lawns continue to cause problems for the survival of animals such as humans. A New York Times article today reports on the problem of water conservation in Florida. In the article, Abby Goodnough notes that Florida residents use up to 75 percent of their water outdoors, mostly on lawns. Drought-resistant ground cover and artificial turf have both failed to catch on in big numbers. Why? Homeowner associations prohibit both. Instead, HOAs insist that homeowners have grass lawns, which require not only enormous amounts of water but also chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizers.
In other words, most Floridians (read: US citizens) are required to create environmental hazards around their homes. These hazards are harmful to animals, including humans, and are aesthetically bland at their very best. The fact that spending 75 percent of fresh water to maintain lawns is an unjust distribution of natural and financial resources seems self-evident to this author, but I’ve grown accustomed to being in the minority.
Perhaps HOAs are resistant because attractive alternatives do not exist. Artificial turf may not be the panacea some hope for as many find it less than beautiful. At least, many think they will find it less than beautiful. Perhaps to see it is to love it, but who knows? Some residents have also experimented with gardens made of rocks and hardy, ground-resistant ground cover. This gives a garden the look of a natural setting, which also seems upsetting to HOAs. A Zen garden filled with gravel and a few well-placed boulders might be attractive and encourage mindfulness at the same time, but I doubt HOAs will embrace the idea of Zen gardens soon, either.
What’s to be done? Some ideas: 1. pass laws limiting water consumption. 2. pass laws limiting the use of environmentally harmful chemicals on lawns. 3. eliminate HOAs. 4. encourage creative lawn maintenance. 5. remove all laws or deed restrictions requiring maintenance of grass lawns.
We will have greater property rights, lawns will reflect more diverse forms of beauty, water will be more abundant, and we will have a more just world. Not bad for a days work. Just let property owners do what they want to do, anyway.