A recurring image hard to get out of my mind from the recent trip to Kentucky and back is that of all the churches we passed surrounded by big, short-mowed lawns. The image sticks with me because even with my unreligious but spirituality-seeking mind I still associate religiosity with spirituality, at least a little. The problem with that is that my experience has been that anyone sincerely on a spiritual quest automatically develops a profound sensitivity to, and respect for, life in all its diverse forms.
Yet, mowed lawns represent the exact opposite of sensitivity to, and respect for, life in all its diverse forms. In any context a mowed lawn is an unstable monoculture needing lots of gasoline, chemicals and money to maintain, in a place where an oxygen-producing, species-diverse, joy-to-work-in garden ought to be.
On the Internet I read that today 58 million people in the US spend about $30 billion every year to maintain over 23 million acres of lawn. Thats an average of over a third of an acre and $517 each, and I suspect that if the page were updated to reflect recently skyrocketed energy and chemical costs the price would be much more. The above site also points out that each WEEK lawns in the US consume around 270 billion gallons of water, which is enough to water 81 million acres of organic vegetables ALL SUMMER LONG. Lawns use ten times as many chemicals per acre as industrial farmland.
But, back to those churches with vast, manicured lawns. Each time I saw one on my recent trip a litany of questions crossed to mind:
What are the chances that in those churches surrounded by sprawling, close-cropped lawns the sermons ever deal with matters such as water wasted, chemicals dumped into the environment, and money spent maintaining big lawns? Whey do church people try so hard to keep their grass mowed and don't even want a single dandelion to greet spring in their lawn, yet seldom if ever do they address the most engaging spiritual challenge of our time, which is how humans can be proper stewards of Earth's profoundly fragile, majestic and sacred Web of Life? .