Saturday, July 17, 2010

About this obsession with lawns

Why do people have this fascination with lawns? They are fundamentally useless and people devote large resources to it. Thinking about it, it is even absurd. You devote resources to remove naturally growing plants, pay for new seeds, then pay for fertilizer and devote resources to watering regularly so that the lawn grows well. Then you spend time or hire people to cut it short! And you just trash what you cut!

And do not tell me a lawn looks nice. I much prefer wild grass with wild flowers. Or that a lawn is useful, as it usually cannot not sustain much foot traffic on it. That space would be more useful if something were cultivated for consumption, or if it had some sheep or goats on it. And because the lawn needs to be perfect, leaves need to be picked up in the fall. Another useless effort.

So, why is our civilization obsessed with green and manicured lawns?

13 comments:

Kansan said...

Oh, I hear ye. I am planning to sell my house, and my real estate agent insists I should completely resow my lawn. Apparently it is good investment. But I find it ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

"And do not tell me a lawn looks nice. I much prefer wild grass with wild flowers."

Oh well that settles it. Tastes are predetermined to be homogenous...

Anonymous said...

"..the desire for upward mobility and its manifestation in the lawn. As Virginia Jenkins, author of The Lawn, put it quite bluntly, 'Upper middle-class Americans emulated aristocratic society with their own small, semi-rural estates.' In general, the lawn was one of the primary selling points of these new suburban homes, as it shifted social class designations from the equity and ubiquity of urban homes connected to the streets with the upper-middle class designation of a "healthy" green space and the status symbol that is the front lawn"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grass

Vilfredo said...

A lawn is like diamonds, nice clothes and an expensive car: useless status symbols. They are expensive signals of wealth, which allow rich people to credibly signal they are rich. Why they would want to signal this is another question.

All the power to those who do not care about status.

Craig Ultsch said...

every one cares about status, it's a programed biological mating response. we may say that we don't care about what people think and that other opinions of us don't matter, but it is still all a signaling problem.

agentcontinuum said...

It's probably more productive to ask why this happens in some countries and not in others. That can help rule out some of the explanations that popped up.

Of course, it also matters what is the alternative. Building on all your land plot? There are plenty of places where you'll find houses stuck to each other on a street. What are the costs and benefits of that?

Anonymous said...

If lawns were not a status symbol, we would have much less of a water problem in the SouthWest

Kansan said...

This blog is about discussing economic research and has few comments. It discusses something else, and comments abound. How come?

Vilfredo said...

Usually on this blog, EL discusses authoritatively research. This time it is a question. So people come out of the woods and answer.

Paavo said...

It's evolutionary psychology. It's like the african savannas where early humans liked to eat the natural lawn movers antilopes and such.

Lawns are just better, more regular and greener. It's a superstimulus thing.

Anonymous said...

Paavo, so you are saying that we like rich, green and short-cut lawns because we imagine that tasty animals grazed on them? Hard to believe as we know all the chemicals they contain.

haddenkelvin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paavo said...

Chemicals in the green grass are like fake boobs.

t.