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The Lawn

We live in the Anthropocene, a geological epoch in which human is shaping patterns and processes across the planet. Globalization as a result of human embedded changes on the planet is a phenomenon of the Anthropocene. Globalization has caused homogenization of green areas around the globe. Today we are witnessing similarity in urban green areas everywhere in the world irrespective to the climate conditions or geographical locations.

As a result of similar plant materials of green infrastructure, there are major risks of diminishing urban biodiversity and degrading different ecosystem services. As Landscape architect Maria Ignatieva and ecologist Karin Ahrné argue, lawns are the most influential element of urban green infrastructure and cover up to 70% of all green areas in urban environment. Thanks to the human actions that has altered ecosystems and their services, lawns can be found in almost everywhere in public parks, backyards, traffic environments, golf courses, graveyards etc.

The lawn prototypes can be probably referred to the European floodplain grasslands vegetation or to secondary meadows after clearing and grazing. In Medieval time lawn was used as decorative element for the first time. It was mainly cut turf from meadows which was transported to castle gardens. Lawns were used in the formal parterres of French gardens. It was a very important element of English landscape parks of the 18th century and the Victorian Gardenesque parks from the 19th century, where the decorative grass was used for recreational purposes and became a symbol of social prestige. During the 20th century the desire for lawns created a commercial multibillion industry to produce seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation technology and lawnmowers.

Lawns are valuable for many reasons for example as a meeting and socializing place, relaxing and recreation for people and a place for city people to have a daily contact with nature among others. They are also contributing to some ecosystem services such as cooling weather; water infiltrations and carbon sequestration, however intensive management and maintenance of conventional lawns, have made them source of pollution and have raised the environmental awareness on possible impacts of lawns on the urban environment. For example United States is consider as one of the biggest “lawn’s lover” with its 60 million kilograms of pesticides are administered to lawns each year and 1.5 trillion litres of municipal water is irrigated on the grass each summer day.

Lawn is a man-made nature. It was originally cut from wilderness and domesticated by humans over the past 200 years therefore could seen as an Anthropocene artifact. It can clearly show the relationship between man and nature and how humans changed the landscape and converted the “unwanted” and “messy” wilderness to a more “desirable” and “manicured” nature which has caused environmental consequences.

Photo

Lawns in Källparken, Sala backe, Uppsala, Sweden . Taken by: Hajar Eshraghi, September 2014

Further Reading

Eshraghi, H. (2014). Lawn as Ecological and Cultural Phenomenon; Understanding of Social, Cultural and Regulatory Motives for Establishment and Management of Lawns in Uppsala. Master thesis in Sustainable Development at Uppsala University

Ignatieva, M. & Ahrné, K. (2013).Biodiverse green infrastructure for the 21st century: from “green desert” of lawns to biophilic cities, Journal of Architecture andUrbanism,Vol:37,No.1,pp. 1-9.

Wood, D. (2006).Green, green grass. Is it a symbol of prosperity, an eco-nightmare, a booming industry or our cultural obsession? ,Air Canada enRoute Magazine, June 2006, pp: 53–56.

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I have studied master of science in Sustainable Development at Uppsala University and I have a background in Agricultural Engineering.