Urban sprawl is not a new phenomenon, and the battle between environmentalists anddevelopers is well-known. But perhaps the issue is not that the land is being utterlystripped of life and replaced by cookie cutter houses or factories, which has been acontroversy for decades. Perhaps the fighting has exposed a deeper problem: theAmerican acceptance of a false outside, seen through lawns that mimic interiors.
People often perceive that any green space is nature. As Michael Ventura says,America is form opposed to content (216). Contractors leave some existing trees onlots not because it may be costly to remove them but because those trees also serve asa selling feature for the houses built between. Most people would rather spend theirweekends at an official, regulated and landscaped park rather than hiking through someun-named forest track. While there is the standard human desire for new experiences,people often are only willing to try pre-tested experiences.
Even when one realizes thesocietal manipulation, it still seems difficult to jump over the railings and really cut a newSo if people are aware that theyre being led by the nose through a sterile,pre-chewed and mocked-up environment, why dont they respond? Heres why: Peopleare simply cannot deal with vast expanses of “nothing.” Afterall, it is more or less theAmerican motto to tame the wilderness, to take what the land has to offer and use it tobetter the standard of human living. Just being there, a more Eastern philosophy,seems only a waste of both money and resources to American thinking. The courtsystem has even ruled several times along the lines that a loss of open space amountsto an insignificant impact to dissuade new housing developments (PreservationGroups Lose Favor). The planet alone has been deemed worthless without us, a beliefwhich already ties in nicely with some Western religious rationalization, for the ease ofhuman interface, comfort of use, the accuracy of human perception (Viola 226).Even the National Park Service doesn’t seem to seem to be championing theplanet to simply safeguard natural ecospheres (Mission Statement). They state:Government has always had an interest in thedevelopment of American land in a beneficial, efficient,and aesthetically pleasing manner.
Since these variablesare highly subjective, land use law, which coversenvironmental takings and zoning issues, are among themost contentious issues facing local, state, and federalThey preserve the land as it is because it will serve them in some function, that of someobscure goal of outside recreation for the people. Our recreation truely is based onre-creation, as Ventura points out (216). The noble act is revealed as a selfish one,something that will ensure their remembrance as good ancestors. They wish to pleaseas many people as possible, marketing the land to satisfy expectations. However, safe, clean and aesthetically-pleasing is not natural nature. Powerfulstorms become natural disasters to our eyes, and weather is judged inclement basedon our perceptions. And those perceptions are not just the normal range of sensesdictated by species, but are directly affected by the environment.
The senses areheightened or dulled depending on dangers encountered in daily life, and the more oneis shielded from the environment, the less one is prepared to handle it when it changessuddenly. A person living in a so-called under-developed country more easily acceptslocal phenomena – such as sand storms or tsunamis – than someone caught off-guardby an earthquake in a city. A resident of Florida posted desperate pleas on the FamilyGardening message board, under the thread of How do I get the sand out of my lawn?HELP! after one particularly heavy rain (Message Posting). The trouble just seems tocome with the territory, yet fifteen concerned replies did follow, explaining just how toremove the foreign matter from the sacred backyard.
What is real, Viola suggests, iswhat is psychologically meaningful (229). People now look at the stripped-downecospheres surrounding their dwellings as an extension of their property: something thatArtificial images do not portray reality accurately, as they aspire to be the imageand not the object (Viola 226). We know that crabgrass and dandelions exist, butlawn-owners insist that such defects shouldnt. Lawns are worse than simply aphotograph–which, if manipulated, is still an image. On the other hand, a lawn isactually a three-dimensional space that we can enter, observe from all angles, drive byand judge the proficiency of weed-whacking.
The introduction to