Toxic grass and Denver's sick obsession with English landscaping

Categories: Gardening, Nature

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Courtesy of Tim Hornton
As you walk from northeast Park Hill across Martin Luther King Boulevard into Park Hill, the sidewalks narrow -- when they exist at all. Shrubs jut out, tripping pedestrians and reminding them that the members of Park Hill's gentry want to keep people off of their green, green lawns.

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Slinging the slur "weeds" at dandelions, purslane and native flowers, the gentry struggle to keep the greenest, least-natural grass. Homeowners grin and exterminate.

They are so thoroughly enamored with English landscaping that they are willing to kill off every native plant to ensure agricultural and cultural homogeneity -- and grass. For the gentry, ecological diversity is a sign of poverty and carelessness. Nature must be tamed. Neighborhoods must be beautified. Manifest Destiny demands it.

The gentry stake tiny, bright yellow warning flags reading, "Caution: Pesticide/Herbicide Application" in their yards: Kids, puppies and others who cannot read this sign, BEWARE! Play here and you will die.

These flags symbolize anglophile nationalism. If the lawn doesn't look like it belongs at a British manor, it is uncivilized.

The owners seem to think that the poison is contained within ecologically arbitrary property lines. But chemicals do not obey the laws of ownership. Every time water hits the lawn, toxins flow into neighboring yards, onto sidewalks and into drains. The poison pours into the public water supply.

Beneficial insects including bees, ladybugs and spiders die; beneficial plants die; squirrels, mice and pets cart the toxins from lawns to playgrounds, creating a chemical soup for children to frolic in.

Apparently, green grass is worth a beneficial bug bloodbath and escalated risks of cancer amongst children. Is this homogenous aesthetic a suicidal impulse, an intentional attack on the neighbors -- or is it simple carelessness and naivete?

No doubt, these green-grass aficionados would never drop poison into their neighbors' coffee or douse children with carcinogens. It's hard to imagine that they would willingly kill thousands of insects with their bare hands or under their Crocs. Yet poison seems benign in the service of the collective Anglo-agrarian fantasy.

At some point, when the gentry believe the toxins have worn off, when the pesticides and herbicides have drifted into the aquifer or the public water supply, these grass lovers remove their little yellow signs and let their children play.

The kids complain that the grass makes their skin itch. The parents notice it, too, when they sunbathe in the yard.

Grass must be a skin irritant, they think. Just imagine how itchy weeds must be.

It is not the grass that is causing them to scratch. It is the poisons. It is the carcinogenic aesthetic, the "by any means necessary" desire to evoke England, where proper conditions exist for grass to flourish. Perhaps the gentry should flourish there, too

Follow me on Twitter: @kyle_a_harris




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