The end of the grass

If there is one thing that filled my father with pride, it is the vision of a grass green and mowed as short as the central court of Wimbledon. For a generation, a greasy, weed-free lawn was the very symbol of prosperity.
I am talking about my father, but I could also talk about my father-in-law. He had the same affection for well-kept lawns. Pride he has passed on to his daughter. As soon as a dandelion or a white clover dares to interfere on our lawn, my blonde starts to stomp. The message is clear: we should pass the mower.

What about me?

I did not inherit from my father the pride of the cut grass. The sound of a lawn mower excites me. To be honest, I like what we call weeds. I know them by their small name: from the fleabane to the cinquefoil, through the knotweed, the bird’s-foot or the silene. Not to mention the goldenrod. How not to love flowers with such pretty names?

So when it comes time to pass the mower, I play the card of inertia. I pretend not to see. But there is a price to pay. I pass for a procrastinous, a lazy. Neighbors whisper behind me. Have you seen him with his bed full of dandelions?

And that is unfair.

Because in the background, I am an activist. By resisting the call of the lawnmower, I fight against climate change. The proof ?

Scientists have discovered that manicured lawns, the ultimate pride of commuters, are not the best way to limit global warming. Regular mowed turf is much less effective than other types of vegetation in mitigating heat islands and promoting biodiversity, according to a study conducted in Montreal by the David Suzuki Foundation.

In other words, a well-maintained lawn has less freshness than a field of “weeds”, a badly trimmed hedge or shrubs. The average temperature is 5 degrees Celsius higher. Down with the grass, long live the clover!

In light of these results, the authors of the study recommend that cities rethink the way in which the territory is greened. It is not a question of converting all turf spaces to obtain significant results. The situation can be improved with simple actions … like mowing the grass less often. See? I lead by example with my lawnmower strike.

I used to picnic at Deschênes Park in the Aylmer area. We settled in the shade of the tall trees that line the river. The picnic tables were installed without ceremony, directly on the lawn, near the play structures. It was good and fresh. Until the city decides to redevelop the space with a stone pavement, in the sun. Yes, it’s cleaner. But the place has lost its freshness. There is heat. In many municipalities, weeds and insects are still considered a nuisance. They prefer concrete or asphalt. Easier maintenance materials that do not dissipate heat well.

Mais les choses changent. À Montréal, des arrondissements pratiquent la « gestion différenciée » des espaces verts. À Gatineau, on commence à y réfléchir, dit la conseillère responsable de l’aménagement du territoire, Maude Marquis-Bissonnette. « Avant, on coupait le gazon partout. Maintenant, on laisse la nature reprendre le dessus à certains endroits. Les terre-pleins en béton, sur les boulevards, ça n’a plus de sens de faire ça aujourd’hui », cite-t-elle en exemple.

There are big benefits for cities to rethink their grassy spaces, says Christian Messier, researcher at UQO and co-author of the Suzuki Foundation study. During large heat waves, a higher turf will cool the ambient temperature. More luxuriant vegetation absorbs more water after a violent storm. It protects pollinating insects better, absorbs more carbon. “The potential is huge! He said.

The impeccable lawn of English gardens has long been viewed as a symbol of wealth, notes the researcher. In a time of climate change, it is time to review our perceptions. To meditate while passing the mower …

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