Thursday, April 28, 2011

In Defense of Yards

Quite the debate has been brewing on the interwebs over cites versus suburbs versus country versus whatever.  Jenn from The Green Phone Booth came out in favor of suburbs and Ruchi at Arduous lobbed back with In Defense of Cities.  I could see all sides.  I've lived in cities and in the burbs and am a country girl at heart.

And then it happened.  Ruchi asked "What does Green Mean?"  Sure, the post covered all kinds of things like growing pot and ritual suicide but the one thing that struck me was the implication that having a yard is not necessarily green.  Urban sprawl has been fueled in part by people looking for more space, more "country-style" living.  And while all those carefully (and not so carefully) yards can be beautiful, they come with the heavy price of freeways, strip malls and pesticide runoff.

I've witnessed sprawl first hand.  My elementary school with its meadowed playground bordered with oak trees is now a Target "Greatland".  My father went to a boarding school down the street when he was young.  Then, it was a dairy farm so I guess I have less to complain about but our societal desire for more land, more space ate up so much of the Southern California that I knew, I headed north when I finished school.  The Bay Area hills stacked with homes, nary a vacant lot between them, called to me.  Living here, I would never feel my heart squeeze as a bulldozer knocked over dozens of trees and pawed up wild land to make room for a chain store or housing development.  There simply wasn't space.  All the development had already happened.

So I get it.  Yards are not green.  Necessarily.  Even though they provide my family with food and my children with a place to dig pools for boats and build miniature tree houses.  But for some of us, yards are necessary.  Hands full of soil, the zoom of a humming bird overheard, the discovery of a ladybug in the cover crop, those things feed our souls.  More than any drug, yards - the right kind of yards - can put a smile on our face and hope in our hearts. 

Yes, my yard sucks up water.  I water judiciously and am building swales to catch winter's runoff.  Yes, my yard once belonged to someone else - someone with wings, someone who walked on four legs and stunk to high heaven.  I share my yard with those who came before me.  A hole dug under the fence, not filled.  A bird house hung on the fence, already occupied.  Seeds and plants selected for native birds and bugs are encouraged to burrow in the sheet mulch.  I never use pesticides or petroleum based fertilizers.

Yes, my yard is not green.  Necessarily.  But it is mine and I love it.


ruchi said...

Well, the truth is that I wrote the first post when I was a little tipsy and while I do love cities, I kind of meant it a little tongue-in-cheek.

The second post I intended to be a LOT more tongue in cheek and my point was not really that yards aren't green but just that we greens have an incoherent concept of what constitutes "nature."

For the record, I have no problem with yards and I don't think they are un-green. There are certainly some yards that can be more problematic than other yards. My point was that SOME enviros claim that yards are not green and disdain any human-made "nature." I find that even more problematic... the idea that we can wall ourselves off from nature because the truth is that humans have been changing our habitats for centuries and centuries.

Green Bean said...

Perhaps I need to get tipsy and re-read your posts! :)

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Clearly I need to read the original post, but I wanted to chime in with a Hear! Hear! for yards. I live in the suburbs and when I bought my house it was surrounded by a "perfect" lawn and 7 trees right down the middle of the lawn.

In the past 15 years that I've lived here, I've ripped out 4 of those trees, planted 2 and have torn out most of the lawn (about 80%, I think). I now have the "crazy" garden in the front of my house that gets more compliments, birds, bees, butterflies, garter snakes, field mice, hawks, owls, hummingbirds and gawkers than that lawn ever did. The best part is that I was able to encourage others in my subdivision to tear out THEIR lawns and replace them with whatever else they wanted. So my little piece of land has started a chain reaction in my neighborhood, giving a little more green back to those that came before us.

And if that's not the definition of being green, I don't know what is!

Green Bean said...

@Hatchet: Now that is a good story! I'll say that I had that affect in my prior neighborhood, with my front yard garden. We've just been here half a year and I'm gardening in the back but give me time!


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