When we, as Americans, consider the American Dream, it is often associated with a house, a two-car garage, driveway, and perhaps a lush green lawn. While grass lawns are common in some corporate and urban areas, many suburban homes are surrounded by them. We as Wisconsinites can choose to make our voices heard when addressing climate change, not only at the voting booth, but by foregoing (or at least in part) the timeless notion of a lawn. We as Wisconsinites can help preserve and utilize water more effectively in different ways; we can reassess our notion of landscaping by redefining the build of a turf grass-based lawn model to reflect today’s era.
There are somewhere around 40 million acres of lawn in the lower 48, according to a 2005 NASA estimate derived from satellite imaging. “Turf grasses, occupying 1.9 percent of the surface of the continental United States, would be the single largest irrigated crop in the country,” that study concludes. Conservatively speaking, American lawns take up three times as much space as irrigated corn. The authors mapped the entirety of the nation’s turf grass. You’ll notice that it’s basically a population density map of the U.S. — where there are people, there are lawns.
If you’re someone who has the time and interest in transforming your lawn from turf grass to a vegetable garden, or an expanse of wildflowers, those would equate to a more logical use of water versus the unclear bounty of turf grass. However, if you’re not able to make time or not interested in the aforementioned ideas, one could simply comprise their lawn of stones, or at least partially, instead of turf grass. Little to no maintenance with a yard of stones, no need for extensive sprinkler sessions, and time spent mowing will also be given back to you for those of you who mow your lawns. Creativity is not frowned upon.
There are some measures to conserve water use by lawns. Mow higher, avoid excess nitrogen as warm weather approaches, limit traffic over the lawn, improve turf rooting, control thatch and soil compaction, and avoid pesticide use on drought stressed lawns. Although transforming one’s turf grass yard to one of raised gardens or stone would mean no need to mow. A decrease in the usage of lawnmowers will result in a concomitant decrease in the usage of gasoline and oil that fuel the grass cutting machines.
As Governor, I will not attempt to create a mandate revoking one’s freedom to have a turf grass lawn or anything of that nature. What I will do is work with communities and look for interest in such projects. Just as some cities in Wisconsin have residential composter units available, perhaps materials to be utilized in landscape transformations could be made more accessible. While the purchase of bottled water is often the talking point on like issues, I believe strongly that we should ask questions that reveal other avenues of water consumption in our society that could be addressed. I believe climate change is real, and that 2018’s Gubernatorial election in Wisconsin is about survival. With that in mind, I believe it is important to reassess our traditions of landscaping, and more importantly allow the American Dream to adapt as an image and in practice as well to reflect today’s era.