Last time, we covered the basics on how the advertising agencies created the modern suburban ideal of the lawn. This week, we will go more in depth on a subject we touched on the last post: the unimaginably harmful effects of modern pesticides and herbicides used to keep cultivated plants (grass included) as productive as possible.
Pesticides have been around almost as long as cultivated agriculture has, and they have taken many forms over the millennia: plant extracts, minerals, and heavy metals that interacted with the nervous and respiratory systems of insects were the primary method of crop protection over that time period. With the coming of the Enlightenment and the resulting industrial revolution, the advances in chemical sciences afforded new types of plant treatments that seemed to be, on the whole, more effective at keeping away pests and weeds and allow for optimally productive crops.
The effects of these treatments on pests and weeds, however, also soon proved harmful for the people consuming the fruits, cereals and vegetables produced. Arsenic-based pesticides, commonly used until the 1900s, would leech into the soil and water tables, causing wide-spread pollution in small water tables that would be consumed by locals and over time cause cancer, chronic arsenic poisoning, and skin lesions.
In the 1900s, a number of synthetic chemicals were found to be as or more effective than arsenic at killing pests and weeds, including DDT, glyphosate, and atrazine. The issues with arsenic poisoning quickly fell away, but new and even more disturbing effects began to show themselves as a result of switching to synthetic chemicals.
Many of the chemicals, developed through scientific funding by the military, were not well understood outside of the immediately positive effects they had on pest and weed populations. This lack of understanding of (or, perhaps, willful disregard of) the deleterious effects of synthetic pesticides on both the environment and people, lead to some insane projects in the vain hope of destroying pest populations, including spraying entire neighborhoods and towns with pesticides. The immediate effects of this were respiratory issues and skin rashes and lesions, but the more horrific effect was the birth defects and hormonal disruptions in the offspring of the populations being sprayed.
DDT, glyphosates, and atrazine, are some of the most widely used synthetic chemical pesticides in the world, used in both domestic and commercial plant cultivation, and all three have been found to cause both acute poisoning and have long-lasting chronic effects on populations of both humans and animals. The chemicals, most troublingly, cause birth defects, hormonal disruption, and multi-generational sexual reproductive issues, and may be one of the leading causes in the reduction of spermatogenesis in males throughout the western world.
These chemicals are all available for household use, and glyphosate (commonly known under the brand name Round Up) is commonly used in yards and lawns across the country. Natural grass turf is particularly notorious for how easy it is to be destroyed by common weeds, and cheap landscapers all over the country use Round Up as an herbicide to keep lawns looking healthy and uniform.
Lawns, then, are a major vector of the pesticides that are so harmful for us entering domestic water supplies, and it’s our belief that they should be eliminated. Substitutes for lawns, such as synthetic grass, may not be perfect, but in the long run they will be far better for our health than the turf they will be supplanting.
Once again, for southern Californian readers, we will recommend NoMow Turf, a local company who provides artificial turf installations for these purposes. They are extremely well regarded by their customers and provide a service that may end up saving both us and the environment.
26674 Vista Terrace, Lake Forest, CA 92630