A recent essay by an Ohio woman who refuses to mow her lawn has struck a nerve. Thirteen hundred people have weighed in with a comment on Sarah Baker's tale of flouting a neighborhood mowing ordinance in the face of a $1,000 fine.
As Baker notes in her essay, lawns are a big part of contemporary American life. 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% of the surface of the continental United States, would be the single largest irrigated crop in the country," that study concludes. Conservatively, American lawns take up three times as much space as irrigated corn. The authors mapped the entirety of the nation's turf grass, below. You'll notice that it's basically a population density map of the U.S. — where there are people, there are lawns.
You'll notice, if you look closely, that the colors start at light green in the urban cores and get darker as you move outward — lawn density increases in the suburbs.
In some states, a significant chunk of the landscape is covered in turf grass — meaning residential lawns, commercial lawns, golf courses, and the like. Delaware is 10 percent lawn. Connecticut and Rhode Island are 20 percent. And over 20 percent of the total land area of Massachusetts and New Jersey is covered in grass, according to that 2005 NASA study.
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You will be better off growing food, than mowing the lawn.