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What were Californians thinking?

May 14, 2015  - By

When Californians removed lawns back in 2015 they created a vast oasis… of nothingness.

Joe Queenan wrote a column titled Let’s Get Rid of All the Lawns in the April 24 Wall Street Journal. In it, he says that lawns are, “arguably the most foolish, destructive, annoying entity on Earth.” This rebuttal is an idea of what could happen if everyone in California followed Queenan’s advice and ripped out their lawns.

April 2035 (or sometime in the future)

It could have been described as a feeding frenzy some 20 years ago in 2015 when people began pulling out their lawns because they thought, “Hey, rocks don’t need water!”

As “cash for grass” programs boomed across California people somehow thought it was easier to rip out their lawns than turn down the faucet.

Concerns expressed about the benefits of lawns by turfgrass specialists, scientists and researchers fell on deaf ears because so many people were loudly scrambling for a quick-fix solution.

Homeowners were so anxious to dramatically modify their landscape during the spring and summer of 2015 to conserve water that it was like a Black Friday holiday sale. Lines were everywhere as the sale of artificial turf, stones, gravel and rocks seemed endless.

Today we realize the environmental consequences of that buying frenzy and just how devastating it really was to remove lawns. Parts of California now resemble the backlot of Paramount Studios where they filmed “Road to Morocco” with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope back in the early 1940s.

Celebrities have traded in their pedigree show dogs for Australian feral camels. The soil erosion has been so extensive that mudslides are as common as a hard-to-see sunrise in Los Angeles. Air pollution is at an all-time high from San Diego to Sacramento, and some cities now surpass the pollution of Kabul, Afghanistan, Mumbai, India and Beijing.

When the rains came in 2022 and the snow reached record levels in 2023, water swept across the California coast casting a shadow of environmental destruction that poured millions of square miles of topsoil into the Pacific Ocean. “It was like watching molasses poured from a wide mouth pitcher into a bottomless pit,” said one scientist at the University of California—Riverside.

Hollywood sign 2023Governor Dakota Fanning said parts of the state look like a scene from “War of the Worlds,” and the loss of the world famous Hollywood sign from a recent mud slide, with only the letters H-O-W remaining, says it all. HOW indeed?

The removal of lawns and the boom in the sale of artificial turf, rocks and stones that began in 2015 in an effort to conserve water was a bonanza for snake oil salesman who hawked their wares from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Bel Air is now called Bad Air. The state now has an abundance of water but the turfgrass that once prevented runoff, filtered out pollutants, prevented erosion and kept tons of dust in check is no more.

Scientists suggest in will take several generations to reverse the ecological disaster that has befallen the state.

And what of American Canyon, the quaint California community that banned lawns back in 2015? It is now a shadow of its former self and ranks as the number one “heat island” in the state. One resident said he now spends more on energy to keep his home cool than he does on health insurance premiums. It’s enough to make you sick and ask the obvious question… What were they thinking?

This article is tagged with and posted in Features, Landscape

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Turfgrass Producers International – TPI

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