Plastic Pretend Grass isn’t Green: how green is your grass?

Fake grass is suffocating the earth when the Earth needs to breathe.

The 22nd April is Earth Day and the theme for Earth Day 2022 is #Invest in Our Planet. 

On this Earth Day I propose that we petition Parliament to invest in making our nation greener by banning plastic pretend grass. Gov.UK petition here
Our planet needs good earth—don’t suffocate it with artificial grass.
How can we tackle the serious issues of climate change and helping Nature when this harmful practise continues to be tolerated in our own backyard?

Pretend Grass Isn’t Green

Green is a colour that is so much more than just a colour. It is the colour of all that is necessary to our very existence.

*This month’s WordPress #WordPrompt word is GREEN.

Green

Mention the word green and my first thought is England (sorry Ireland). My second thought is William Blake’s hymn—with the strains of the music by Hubert Parry entering straightaway into my head. This poem speaks about an ideal “Green and Pleasant Land.” A land now under threat from a trend in covering it in artificial green plastic pretend grass.

Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

William Blake
The preface page to Milton by William Blake | Jerusalem poem

This poem about ’England’s Green and Pleasant Land’ was first published on the preface to his epic two-volume poem Milton.
Now, it is time to get down to the nitty gritty. Time to talk about dirt—and how green is your grass?

Dirt

Take a handful of soil in your hand. Look at it. It’s just a lump of dirt. Is that your first thought? 
It is brown and… well, dirty. Okay, the soil is brown. Brown is good. I know, the word prompt is GREEN!—but without brown dirt, there would be no green.
Soil and rock and clay and pebbles and… is what we stand upon. Build houses on, build roads on, grow plants in order to feed the soul and grow food to feed our growing populations. Dirt is what we walk on. It is the ground. 
All pretty obvious. But this common bit of muck is under threat.

The World is in Your Hands

What you hold in your hand is home. It is Earth. It is not just dirt, an inert lump of dust, grit, and stone. It is Home. It is home to ants, creepy crawlies and unseen biological organisms and loads of other stuff. It is vital for life.

Dirt is the stuff that gives you muddy knees when you play in it as a child. I got my muddy knees as a child when I knelt on it, fascinated by the life in it. I would crouch watching them in the park, in the garden, on the pavement. The ground everywhere was teeming with ants going about their shopping. Watching ants for ages, my eyes following them travelling along their route, imagining they were going up and down Oxford Street shopping (that was where I went every Saturday, shopping with my mother). The ants appear to me to be doing the same thing. Their loads of leaf and organic bundles in their jaws, held high above the stream of fellow industrious shoppers—the busy ants waving their purchases like flags.

I would crouch watching them in the park, in the garden, on the pavement. I would watch fascinated wherever the ground was teeming with ants going about their business. 

…ants going about their business

Busy ants on a forest floor | video: Lesley Scoble

Worms and other things

Worms were another fascination. I would grab one and let it wriggle in the palm of my hand, wondering which end was which. I saved earthworms from the footpath where I knew they were under threat of being tramped upon or vulnerable to a hungry blackbird.

Worms in a compost heap | Barbican Wildlife Garden | Photo courtesy of @NicsRescue twitter

Dirt doesn’t just contain ants and earthworms. There is much more within that handful of earth. There are things which the naked eye of a child can miss. The soil teems with living organisms that include fungi, actinomycetes, archaea, algae, protozoa, springtails, mites, nematodes, and as well as my first discoveries of ants and worms, there are insects that live beneath its surface, living in insect labyrinths underground. There are larger organisms that share the earthy habitat, such as rodents. A world of small mammals burrowing through the dirt such as moles that leave little mole-hills above as signs of their existence beneath. All living lives that contribute to a natural healthy ecological environment. The environment that we cannot live without. The dirt. There is a current fashion trend to cover this valuable substance with fake grass.

How Green is Your Grass?

Plastic Pretend Grass isn’t green

There is a place for pretend grass. On stage, for instance, when a lawn is required for a stage set… and it might be okay in a shop, or house and garden exhibition upon which to display a picnic set, for example. I can understand it might have a purpose to advertise garden furniture, etc. so long as they label it with a warning sign *not for exterior use!

Fake grass verges on the edge of madness

Artificial Grass verge | courtesy of @Shitlawns Twitter
Artificial Grass | courtesy of @Shitlawns Twitter
Fake grass verge | Twitter

How has it come to this? That people pay money to buy a large sheet of pretend grass to cover and suffocate the sacred earth with? I am perplexed. Also, a trifle vexed. Who are these people? They range from the very rich… to the celeb TV gardener (Alan Titchmarsh). There, I’ve named him! I used to respect him, but now, if he appears on TV, I switch off with a huff. How can any horticulturist, gardener, or landscapist lay down a carpet of such travesty against nature? They can have no sense!

They have no sense!

  • No sense of smell—new mown hay is one of the best fragrances I know!
  • No sense of taste—artificial grass is obscene. It is an effrontery to good taste.
  • No sense of aesthetics—plastic pretend grass offends any normal eye that has the misfortune to gaze upon it.
  • No sense of touch—you just have to walk barefoot in real grass to know what I mean.

I don’t know who these people are!?
They cannot know who David Attenborough or who Greta Thunberg is, can they?
They cannot think beyond a shallow, insensitive surface appearance. An appearance of what? What aesthetic value does artificial grass have? What is their mentality? I want to know! What do these people do? Do they watch the news?

Do they watch the news?

  • Do they watch the news?
  • Do they not see how the Natural World is in dire peril?
  • Do they never want to walk barefoot in the grass on a warm sunny day and feel the coolness of the grass between their toes and on the soles of their feet?
  • Do they not want to open their curtains in the early morning and see the diamonds of dew glisten in the sunrise?
  • Do they not want to smell new *mown grass?
  • Do they never want to listen to the gentle buzzing and hum of insects foraging through the blades of grass?

There is no scent like the sweet smell of cut grass. We might like it, but the grass is less than happy. It is sending out distress signals because of the trauma of being cut. 
The fresh-cut scent is the release of chemical compounds called green leaf volatiles (GLVs). Some of these GLVs rush to heal the wounds as first-aid and provide antibiotics to injured areas, while others will rush to defend the blades under imminent threat. 
Research also implicates that some of the chemical releases may affect the ozone formation, causing photochemical reaction to create smog in urban areas. 
However, should you need to mow your lawn, why not use an easy manual hand mower? Then the grass attracts blackbirds, song thrushes and starlings to feed.
Hand shears and push mowers are ecological and better than the destructive energy consuming flail- trimmers that are lethal, and kill every insect in its path.

*Only mow at times that don’t mow away the mining and solitary bees’ first food of dandelions and cowslips. 
Cowslips, dandelion, nettles on grass | Early food for solitary bees | Barbican Wildlife Garden | Photo: Lesley Scoble
Cowslip being approached by a solitary bee | Barbican Wildlife Garden | Photo: Lesley Scoble
Bees on early nettle flowers | Barbican Wildlife Garden | Photo: Lesley Scoble
Insects need habitat to survive, and without insects, there will be no habitat.

Grassholes!

How can the fake grass owners prefer to get the vacuum cleaner out of the cleaning cupboard and hoover their blanket of plastic pretend grass? Are they such Grassholes?

Vacuum cleaning artificial grass | Photo: courtesy of @ Shitlawns Twitter

If I wasn’t laughing at this image, I’d be crying.

If they had real grass they could get a sheep to graze upon it! Fancy that. A sheep to shear and knit a sweater from? How much better would that be? Than hoovering? Hoovering, as every house cleaner knows, is a job that sucks!

Sheep mowing the grass | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Where have all the bugs and insects gone?

Drastic decrease in populations of these animals is cause for extreme concern. They are the experts in pollination, pest control and decomposition. Humans can find insects irritating—but without them, what would the world be like?
I remember when camping a decade ago, I would need to wear a mosquito net to avoid insect bites. Now, that same net remains unneeded when camping. The car windscreen, at the end of a journey, would need a wipe to clear the splattered corpses of flies, bugs, etc. Today, the car windscreen remains clear.
Does this alarm you? Scientists warn we ignore these animals at our peril.
Oliver Milman, author of The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires, speaks to Michael Safi about “The fascinating world of insects and how these tiny creatures, often dismissed as an annoyance, play a vital role in making the Earth habitable.” Listen to the podcast here.

Artificial Grass in a churchyard?

The other day, a stroll around the City took me past the site of the St Martin Orgar church. What should be a valuable little green space in a built-up city—is artificial grass covered-over? Who covered this garden with this obscenity? Is the City of London the perpetrator of this blasphemy? Who did this? This tiny patch of ground could be a small green sanctuary in a location surrounded by office buildings. Instead, it is desolate. The carpeting of plastic grass ensures that no worm will wriggle here. Nor any blackbirds will be heard singing here. No thrush will forage on the turf looking for a meal in this old churchyard.

Site of St Martin Orgar Church, City of London | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Could a graveyard shrouded in plastic grass ever inspire the poet Thomas Gray? Could a churchyard spread with such a cape of doom encourage him to compose his beautiful, iconic poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard? I somehow cannot imagine him sitting beneath the famous yew tree, writing “The moping owl does to the moon complain” or “Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,” whilst upon artificial grass.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way, 
And leaves the world to darkness and to me. 

Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight, 
And all the air a solemn stillness holds, 
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight, 
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds; 

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r 
The moping owl does to the moon complain 
Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r, 
Molest her ancient solitary reign. 

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade, 
Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap, 
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, 
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. 

Thomas Gray 1716-1771

Read the full poem here

Nature’s Wrath

Time to stop the obscene practise of laying down artificial grass that covers and suffocates all life that lives beneath it. It smothers the myriad of small inhabitants of the soil that creep and buzz through real grass and the weeds (weeds are a derogatory misnomer for wild flowers because they self seed where a gardener doesn’t want them).
There are more organisms in a handful of dirt than there are humans existing above it. On the entire planet.
Soil is the stomach of the Earth where it consumes, digests, and cycles nutrients. To smother the earth with plastic grass is an abuse of the privilege of having a garden. It is an abuse of nature. It is also an abuse against humanity.

Charity begins in your own backyard

Each and everyone of us can (and must) play our own small part to avert the dire dramatic effects of a change in climate whether your garden is big or small.
To conserve a small patch of ground can help revitalise this perilous dilemma. Any patch of real grass can be a lifeline to blackbirds, song thrushes and starlings (starling numbers have declined 97%). Be proud of your tiny patch of green that will reward you with the song of a blackbird… or thrush… or starling… and fill a summer afternoon with the gentle buzzing of life among the grass.

The 22nd April is Earth Day and the theme for Earth Day 2022 is Invest in Our Planet. It is Earth Day week and I suggest that the government should invest in making our nation greener by banning plastic pretend grass. How can we tackle the serious issues of climate change and helping Nature when this harmful practise continues to be tolerated in our own backyard?

If we do not do it, nature will do it for us. Then we will all suffer the consequences of nature’s wrath.

#InvestInOurPlanet

A good place to start is to lobby the government to invest in our planet and ban the use of artificial grass outdoors.
Please sign the Gov.UK petition here

In this blog I haven’t mentioned hedges!

Where are the hedges?

Where are the hedges?

“Before the advent of flail hedge trimmers (only 50 years ago) hedges were cut & laid in a 10 year cycle, so only 10% were cut in any one year. There were also more hedges & the remaining 90% of uncut hedges would have been in varying growth stages.”

Rob Crocker, Oxfordshire Farmer

”On a walk in a Devonshire lane I observed a beautiful spider with a magnificent web in a hedge full of berries, insects and butterflies. The next day I walked by the same hedgerow and it was shorn and cut back to within an inch of its life. The spider and all the insects and butterflies were gone.”

— Lesley Scoble

This artificial hedge is not only poor taste, it is a CRIME. A lethal assault against nature.

Artificial Hedge, Twickenham | Photo: Teresa Scoble

Where have all the sparrows gone?

Sparrows were plentiful when I was a kid!—and rightly known as the common sparrow (and in London called the cheeky Cockney ‘sparrer’).

In my childhood, hedges and shrubs sang with the their joyful twittering and chirping in the front gardens. There isn’t singing from the plastic hedge.

The sparrow is red-listed with a 60% population decline in the UK.

The little sparrow | Watercolour: Lesley Scoble

Some of the blame must be placed on the removal of hedges and shrubs from the front gardens. As well as their natural homes, being usurped by artificial hedges—they have disappeared beneath concrete for car parking. Leading to the biggest climate change, threat from small green spaces. To destroy these vestiges of small green sanctuaries amounts to an enormous problem. The rising threat of flooding being just one of them.

Sparrow in a bush | Photo: Lesley Scoble

My thanks to @shitlawns, @NicsRescue and @maggiem30026514 on Twitter for photographs, etc. and helping to raise awareness for the need for change in this abominable practise of covering gardens in plastic pretend grass.

Keep safe and tread lightly 🌱

2 comments

  1. Another crime of plastic grass: it actually radiates heat at temperatures hotter than road asphalt!! A local garden guru where I live, Nan Sherman, does a show called “A Growing Passion” for our local public tv station. One of the episodes was about the importance of maintaining urban tree canopies to reduce the “heat island” effect of all the concrete and paving in cities. What astounded me was when she went around on a 70 degree (Fahrenheit) sunny day with a thermometer measuring the heat radiating off different surfaces to illustrate how important tree shade and planted areas are because they are so much cooler than the man made surfaces. The shocker was that heat radiating off the asphalt road surface was something like 95 degrees (F) but an adjacent plastic lawn was radiating something like 120 degrees (F)!! And people are encouraged to put this in spaces where their pets may be trapped all day!! Not to mention how ridiculously expensive it is. Folks have no clue; I feel the industry is criminal and will hopefully be shunned before it’s too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your informative comment and for sharing these important facts.
      How can we tolerate artificial grass and hedges in this perilous climate of climate change?
      Anyone who does this should need either planning permission (on what grounds it might be granted, I know not) or psychiatric assessment!

      It is a crime against nature. We must ban it.

      Lesley 🌱🙏🌳

      Like

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