Have you guys seen (usually through social media, such as Facebook or Tumblr) the “Grow Food Not Lawns” campaigners? Basically, they believe that people should not obsess over perfectly manicured lawns and grow edible fruits, vegetables, and herbs on their own property. The potential benefits in terms of less fuel consumed when food is shipped are obvious—if enough people were to do this to make a difference. Those whoa re fans of organic food might enjoy the peace of mind that comes with growing the food yourself.
There’s an easy argument against this—that not everyone, even in the suburbs, lives in a neighborhood (or town or city) that allows what the Grow Food Not Lawns proponents are encouraging. From what I understand, in some places, doing something like this could get part of your lawn bulldozed—and you billed for it.
There is another, more important argument.
I’m not a “grass person” (I love trees and ivy, personally) and many types of gardens look absolutely lovely, but there’s just no way that I’m ever going to do that. How about if I fulfill one of my specialized skills and, as a person who hates the feeling of dirt or grime and who gets genuinely uncomfortably warm at 70F, leave the gardening to people who have both the desire and inclination. Growing flowers and managing a garden is work. Growing crops that you intend to eat, even if you do not intend to rely upon them as your primary source of sustenance, is a lot of work.
Also, not everyone eats the kind of food that you can grow in your lawn. There are some teas and flavorful herbs and some wonderful fruits and berries that could grow in my yard, but let’s be honest: I can’t grow enchiladas or macaroni and cheese. I cannot grow sesame chicken or pizza.
I understand the environmental ideas behind this movement—I really do. But I’m not just objecting to people telling me what to do with my lawn like someone objecting at being told to shave (or not shave, as the case may be). It’s not just that people are being pushy—it’s that the idea does not work. Not for everyone.
We like the idea of a Jack-Of-All-Trades in fiction—someone who can kick ass, perform battlefield surgery, solve a complex riddle, survive in the wilderness for three months, and hack into any computer on the planet. But as anyone who has played a hybrid class in a video game might tell you, being a little good at a lot of things does not work. If you can act and write and paint and sing and you also have other talents, great. But chances are that if you’re working on your new album and filming a movie, you aren’t going to be able to devote that time that you wanted to spend on solving the Riemann Hypothesis, designing that new video game you thought of in the shower, and also growing your own food. And that’s if you don’t have children.
We each have our own particular aptitudes, sets of knowledge, capabilities, and interests. If you want to grow your own food, that’s great. If I want to do what I can do with my abilities, receive currency—my effort and merit measured out—and then exchange that currency to someone else (like a grocery store) for that store’s product (thus rewarding them for doing their work as I am rewarded for doing mine), then that’s wonderful. That’s the world in which we live.
The solution to unhealthy food is to fix the food and/or to fix our bodies so that we are not punished for enjoying the foods that we love. The solution to the environmental impact of transporting foods across distances is to use clean, renewable energy. We won’t exhaust sunlight transporting out-of-season strawberries halfway across the continent so that I can eat them when I want to.
If you want to make time to grow your own food or solve unsolved mathematical equations, good for you. But don’t criticize someone for using his or her property for a different purpose.
PS: I’m an environmentalist. I really am. I am just not a farmer. I like plants but we just thrive in totally different environments. They thrive in sunny, warm, humid environments where there are also things like insects and dirt and I do not care for any of those things in the least.