Ayres Knowledge Center Learning From Nature - Page 7

By contrast we humans often over invest in the least valuable parts and under invest in the most valuable parts of the objects or systems we design. For example, in many developed parts of the world, we invest a lot of fuel and human energy mowing lawns 13 . Over the long‐term, lawn becomes one of if not the most expensive components of the built landscape. We over invest in lawn, assigning a larger portion of the built outdoor environment to it, because it’s simple and low cost to install and really simple to maintain. But what do we gain from it? Aside from some neat aesthetic outcomes (and there are some really beautiful uses of lawn) or utilitarian needs, (You need lawn for some types of uses, like soccer for example; no way around it, soccer in a forest, while interesting, is a completely different game) we don’t gain much from it. Unless you are raising a grazing animal on it 14 , lawn has zero nutritional value, it does little to absorb stormwater, and any carbon it absorbs is wasted on the inefficient engines used to power the mowers used to mow it. And then there is manufacturing and wasted labor applying chemicals to ensure a completely homogenous stand of vegetation (i.e. weed-free lawn). Simply put, we are investing way too much energy and money on something that provides very little ROI in almost all instances (unless you want to raise sheep, goats, beef, horses, etc). However, we’ll under invest in the siding on our home because, hey, vinyl is cheaper. Never mind it lacks the insulative value or durability of other materials. (Maybe that’s not a realistic example for most readers. It was a pretty big jump in potential cost differences). Let’s use a different example, what is the nutritional value of the food you are eating? Of all the things to spend a little more of one’s income on I’ve personally always felt a little more for better food stuff (the materials for making your own food, not eating out more) is worth the investment 15 . Buying better food might mean you have to save another year or two for that new mobile tablet but the benefits outweigh the wait. In the United States, our cost of food as a portion of our household expenses has been steadily decreasing (Barclay, 2015). To be sure this is in part because we have other household expenses that someone, say Charles and Caroline Ingalls (Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pa and Ma), just didn’t have, circa 1881. (High- speed Internet? Not something that kept Chuck or Carol Those familiar with my work will know I don’t care for the overuse and application of lawn. If I were to be honest this largely stems from the fact that I had to mow lawns to pay for college. Imagine how delighted I was to find out that lawns really are pretty bad for the planet. Stupid lawn mowing job! 13 14 Grazing animals are incredibly efficient lawn maintenance investments. Take it from someone with personal experience. This assumes one can meet the most basic needs of life for themselves and their families: safety and shelter. I know that for many, there is barely enough money for living. For many they buy the best food their budget can allow. That is an extremely sad condition and a topic that has been and should continue to be discussed. 15 AYRESASSOCIATES.COM | 7