Neil Tyson often conjectures that maybe aliens have concluded humans aren’t intelligent enough to contact. He’s probably referring to our capacity for war, but lawns may display our talent for fruitless carnage even better.
Americans devote 70 hours, annually, to pushing petrol-powered spinning death blades over aggressively pointless green carpets to meet an embarrassingly destructive beauty standard based on specious homogeneity. We marvel at how verdant we manage to make our overwatered, chemical-soaked, ecologically-sterile backyards. That’s just biblically, nay, God-of-War-ishly violent.
To understand the sheer inanity of devoting 40 million acres, nearly half as much land as we set aside for our biggest crops, to an inedible carpet, we need to back up—beyond the modern lawn’s origins with a real estate family peddling the “American Dream” as Whites-only cookie-cutter suburbs—to the evolution of grass.
Most plants grow from the top, according to Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Director Steve Windhager. “Grasses, on the other hand, always grow from the base,” he told Earther. From the plant’s perspective, this was a great strategy for dealing with grazers who’d randomly hit the same patch every few months. But Americans, true to form, are more gluttonous.
We mow our lawns every few weeks. This coaxes our grass into growing its roots outwards, rather than down, spawning more sprawling shoots, in hopes of enabling any one blade to avoid overzealous grazers. However, the $47.8 billion to $82 billion we spend annually on overcutting and landscaping (FYI: we spend $49.47 billion in foreign aid) effectively amounts to trying to kill the grass while offering it life support. We trap it in prepubescence—too young to reseed, racing desperately ever-outward to find reproductive refuges that doesn’t exist.
We cut ourselves equally: Thirty-five thousand people, 4,800 of which are children, are treated annually for mower-related injuries—resulting in 600 youth amputations. The Royal Statistical Society even awarded the fact that nearly eight times more Americans are killed by lawnmowers than Islamic terrorists International Statistic Of The Year.