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Friday, June 20, 2008

green shift? carbon tax? kyoto? how about what's growing on your front lawn?

There's no shortage of blogosphere chatter surrounding Stéphane Dion's Federal Liberal "Green Shift" and carbon-tax, so rather than joining the gawkfest over some fairly obvious partisan maneuverings and electoral calculations, I'm going to focus on something a little more real.

As my interest in urban issues continues to grow, I've spent some time thinking about the concept of the 'front lawn.' I continue to be surprised at the amount of energy and focus that some homeowners put into manicuring the perfect patch of synthetic pesticide-laced monocotyledonous green plants* in front of their houses, as it seems like quite the disappointing allocation of land resources (and water) to only use a front lawn for mostly ornamental (or social status) purposes. There's also no shortage of studies linking the pesticides that many property owners use in their front lawns to health problems including cancer, leukemia, and birth problems, among others. This is why I was really interested to listen to the June 13 podcast of Public Radio International's Studio 360 in which Julie Burstein interviews author and architect Fritz Haeg.

Haeg's book and project, the Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, promotes the replacement of traditional domestic front lawns by ripping up meticulously manicured sod and replacing it with an 'edible landscape' that will produce harvests of varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Haeg first started the project in 2005 in Kansas, and it quickly spread to locations in California, New Jersey, London, England (read more here), Texas, and Maryland.

In the context of sustainability, the global food crisis, and increasing urban environmental concerns, this type of development could be a positive force in suburban and urban environments (and could help foster a sense of community in our sometimes hopelessly disconnected and individualistic society).

You can listen to Julie Burstein's interview with Fritz Haeg here:

*Many of Canada's largest municipalities, including Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Hamilton, have adopted by-laws (pdf) limiting the use of synthetic lawn & garden pesticides for cosmetic use on private property. Quebec enforces a province-wide ban and Ontario has proposed a similar ban through The Cosmetic Pesticide Ban Act (not without controversy, of course).

Edmonton has yet to adopt similar a by-law, but Calgary currently has a draft by-law waiting in the wings.


Anonymous said...

"the gawkfest over some fairly obvious partisan maneuverings and electoral calculations"

You are one cynical bastard. Good post, Dave.

Anonymous said...

The difference between what you've written about here and what the Green Shift signifies is a difference between a 300,000 mile policy view and a view close to home that people can actually understand.

A successful political party focuses on issues that are important to people, not overly complicated tax readjustment schemes.

Kelly said...

I completely agree with you on this post. I always feel slightly uncomfortable returning to my dad's suburbia home, which one friend said looks "sterile". I enjoy living in my neighbourhood in Ottawa now as there is more life on the front lawns. One person down the street is actually growing grapes on a canopy over their front lawn. Otherwise it seems like just a waste of space for a monospecies.

Roman said...

"monocotyledonous"? Well done. Quite the word.

Where do you stand on golf courses and vineyards?

daveberta said...

Vineyards are agriculture, but I'm torn on golf courses (as someone who doesn't golf...). It's recreational space, but it's not exactly the best use of space...