I always thought I understood this problem. You’re lazy or too busy. I get it. I’m a lazy bastard too. From that perspective, I am generally very understanding towards other lazy fuckers like me. For most circumstances you can get away with some lazy…
Not this time.
We’re staying in a town this week that seems to have incorporated the presence of low-maintenance lifestyles as one of its hallmarks.
We walked around town today, trying to find a local playground for the kids. While doing so, we noticed that this entire town is filled with houses placed on large properties, all of which shared a particular set of properties. First of all, emptiness. The structural heterogeneity of the properties – I am hesitant calling them gardens – was so low that even if some life form arrived here it would leave for lack of places to live, or resources to use. Which brings me to the second. If there were any plants, it was usually a lawn mixture meticulously kept at heights useless for any life form. Third, the entire town was marked by high levels of sealed off surfaces. Gravel beds, tiles, brickwork, and I even saw concrete-slabbed driveways. Fourth, several lawns kept short by guillotines on wheels, chopping to bits everything that could not get out of the way in time. I spent some time wondering why you would even let such a stupid device run on a lawn that is already meticulously trimmed? Last, all these spaces shared one common characteristic, they were absolutely horrible to look at.
Low-maintenance properties were lining every street here. Low-maintenance and, by association, low in biodiversity. And here’s the thing. This unnamed town is nothing special. I see it in my own neighborhood, and in many towns we visit on our trips. I sometimes look at online properties for sale in places I’d want to live. (A man can dream.) One thing most advertisements have in common is that they boast about having a low-maintenance garden. Gardens are now among the most unwelcoming of places. In my view this goes for humans and for wildlife.
A colleague of mine recently presented a study in which he investigated people’s attitudes towards animals and particularly where they would want to encounter or enjoy specific animals, or nature in general. An interesting finding was that people generally were highly appreciative of nature and wildlife, as long as it stayed the fuck out of their gardens.
What the hell happened that we got so out of touch with nature? Nature is not doing so well on many fronts, as humans take over many natural areas, and many of our doings become drivers of global change. Now, maybe more than ever, close to home is where you could make a small but important difference. Yet, we choose convenience and dead zones.
I always thought we were lazy and that was the sole explanation for many things, but I am starting to believe that it’s much worse than that.
We are lazy and we simply don’t care.