Urban sprawl is an issue in cities everywhere. The civic election that will take place in Edmonton today includes issues revolving around urban sprawl, such as redeveloping our city airport into a housing project. (Vote Steve Mandel for Mayor and Kim Cassaday for councillor in Ward 3 if you want the city centre airport redeveloped) Take a walk around the block someday, and pay attention to what people do with their yards. Then ask yourself, “Why do we have yards at all?”
I did just that this Sunday morning, paying attention to mostly just the front yards. My criteria were simple (yet judgmental and harsh): if lawn dominated the garden (75% or more) than I concluded that the front yard was worthless. If the garden had some attempt (at least 25% of the total area) at planted landscaping, then I marked it as being useful. I even marked front gardens that were dominated by overgrown pine or spruce as useful, because even if often ugly, they at least provide some habitat. My findings will surprise no one: 86% of front yards are worthless. (I did not take back yards into account, as they are often hard to view clearly from back alleys – I believe that most back yards are fairly well used – vegetable gardens, deck and patio space, children’s play areas, dog runs and the inevitable shed to store all the equipment required to look after lawns) So the question arises again: just why do we have front yards? Aesthetics? A resounding no. Food? No. Habitat for wildlife? No. Play area? well…seldom. I only know of one house in our daily walk where children occasionally play in the front garden. So why this wasted space? Why are we wasting land (and our water resources to sustain it) to this extent?
Gambler House expands on the environmental consequences of lawns, and examines a new study that shows the history of one of the reasons we have gardens…and the answer can be stinky…
Visit Why do Americans Have Yards? at Gambler House.