Good Ancestors Like Dandelions

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Urban sprawl is not a new phenomenon, and the battle between environmentalists and
developers is well-known. But perhaps the issue is not that the land is being utterly
stripped of life and replaced by cookie cutter houses or factories, which has been a
controversy for decades. Perhaps the fighting has exposed a deeper problem: the
American 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 on
lots not because it may be costly to remove them but because those trees also serve as
a selling feature for the houses built between. Most people would rather spend their
weekends at an official, regulated and landscaped park rather than hiking through some
un-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 the
societal manipulation, it still seems difficult to jump over the railings and really cut a new
So 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: People
are simply cannot deal with vast expanses of “nothing.” Afterall, it is more or less the
American motto to tame the wilderness, to take what the land has to offer and use it to
better 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 court
system has even ruled several times along the lines that a loss of open space amounts
to an insignificant impact to dissuade new housing developments (Preservation
Groups Lose Favor). The planet alone has been deemed worthless without us, a belief
which already ties in nicely with some Western religious rationalization, for the ease of
human interface, comfort of use, the accuracy of human perception (Viola 226).

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Even the National Park Service doesn’t seem to seem to be championing the
planet to simply safeguard natural ecospheres (Mission Statement). They state:
Government has always had an interest in the
development of American land in a beneficial, efficient,
and aesthetically pleasing manner. Since these variables
are highly subjective, land use law, which covers
environmental takings and zoning issues, are among the
most contentious issues facing local, state, and federal
They preserve the land as it is because it will serve them in some function, that of some
obscure goal of outside recreation for the people. Our recreation truely is based on
re-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 please
as many people as possible, marketing the land to satisfy expectations.
However, safe, clean and aesthetically-pleasing is not natural nature. Powerful
storms become natural disasters to our eyes, and weather is judged inclement based
on our perceptions. And those perceptions are not just the normal range of senses
dictated by species, but are directly affected by the environment. The senses are
heightened or dulled depending on dangers encountered in daily life, and the more one
is shielded from the environment, the less one is prepared to handle it when it changes
suddenly. A person living in a so-called under-developed country more easily accepts
local phenomena – such as sand storms or tsunamis – than someone caught off-guard
by an earthquake in a city. A resident of Florida posted desperate pleas on the Family
Gardening 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 to
come with the territory, yet fifteen concerned replies did follow, explaining just how to
remove the foreign matter from the sacred backyard. What is real, Viola suggests, is
what is psychologically meaningful (229). People now look at the stripped-down
ecospheres surrounding their dwellings as an extension of their property: something that
Artificial images do not portray reality accurately, as they aspire to be the image
and not the object (Viola 226). We know that crabgrass and dandelions exist, but
lawn-owners insist that such defects shouldnt. Lawns are worse than simply a
photograph–which, if manipulated, is still an image. On the other hand, a lawn is
actually a three-dimensional space that we can enter, observe from all angles, drive by
and judge the proficiency of weed-whacking. The introduction to


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