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Duration:03:34
Uploaded:2011-07-22
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In which John discusses the absolute insanity of front yards. Turf grass is the biggest irrigated crop in the US; we irrigate grass almost exclusively with drinkable water; also, you will be surprised to learn that grass is INEDIBLE. Plus, I dislike mowing the lawn when it is 115 outside.

Lots of people (particularly people who work in the lawn business) will note that turf grass is a carbon sink (particularly if you mow the lawn frequently). This is true, but there are far more efficient carbon sinks that don't require so much water.

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SOURCES:
Turf grass is the biggest irrigated crop in the US by a factor of three: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawn#Environmental_concerns
The EPA estimates a third of residential water is used to water lawns, equaling four billion gallons of potable water per day: http://www.usgrassandgreens.com/artificial-grass-blog/
70 million pounds of pesticides are used each year on lawns according to the EPA: http://www.treesolutions.com/services/organic-lawn-care/


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A Bunny
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Good Morning Hank, it's Friday. It's also 117 thousand degrees outside, Celsius, and like a boss, I decided to go for a walk.

Do you know what the most common irrigated crop in the United States is?

Turf Grass! Do you know there's three times more irrigated turf grass... and you know, I can't do this, it's too hot! It is hotter than Kim Jong-il would be if he died and went to hell.

Yet more evidence, Hank, that outside is overrated.

Right so there's three times more irrigated turf grass in the United States than there is corn, but more importantly, almost all of the water that we irrigate turf grass with is potable.

About 30% of the overall drinking water supply in America goes to feed grass. Hank, it seems to me that the America front lawn is the best possible example of how what is called 'status quo bias' can lead to like, complete insanity. I mean, obviously front lawns are a terrible idea. I mean Hank, what do all of these front lawns have in common? No one is using them!

They're just sitting there, sucking four billion gallons of drinking water every frakkin' day. Also, in order to maintain this completely unnatural plant monoculture, we use seventy million pounds of pesticides every year on our grass. Grass, which I will remind you, does not feed us.

I'm sorry Hank, but it is very hot and just like characters in Victorian novels, the temperature reflects my temperament. Seventy million pounds of pesticides a year, it's ridiculous, and the most ridiculous part is that I'm out there with them, trying to make sure that my grass looks OK so my neighbors don't get mad at me.

Now Hank, there are some advantages to lawns - grass turns carbon dioxide into oxygen (although it's hardly the most efficient carbon sink), and there's some soil erosion benefits (although we'd all be better off if we had a big mix of plants in our front yard. And we'd be better off still if we had vegetable gardens.)

So how did we end up with the disaster that is the front lawn? The British. That's right Hank, we threw off their colonial yoke and said no to taxation without representation but they got us on the lawns.

The lawn is a British invention but the idea isn't as crazy in Britain, because as you know, it rains all the freakin' time.

So they don't have to pump four billion gallons of drinking water every day into their lawns - on the down side they never get to see the sun, also James Murdoch.

So Hank, we're all biased toward the status quo, not to beat a dead horse, but that's the only reason we still have pennies, like, if somebody tried to introduce a coin that was worth a thousandth of a dollar today, people would be like "That's insane!". Well, it's equally insane to have a coin that's worth a hundredth of a dollar, but since it already exists, we're all OK with it.

So Hank, if you could close your eyes and imagine a world in which there's a huge vegetable garden in the front of every home in suburban America, and there's a multi-billion dollar industry of people taking care of these vegetable gardens, and watering them, and helping you to harvest the crops. Your food costs go down, you have more vegetables in your diet, we use less oil and gas to transport food. But then, one day, you decide to rip up your vegetable garden and become the first person in your neighborhood to lay down turf grass.

Your neighbors are going to come over and be like "Hey, what's the new thing?" and you'll be like "That's turf grass!" and they'll be like "Great! Uh, what do you cook it with?" and you're like "No, you don't eat it." In short, Hank, your neighbors are going to think you're crazy, partly because they have status quo bias toward this world in which all front yards are composed of vegetable gardens, and partly because they're right.

But Hank, the weirdest thing about status quo bias is that it doesn't actually preserve the status quo. Over the last 40 years, American lawns have gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. We're trying to preserve the status quo and we have an idea in our head, that's fueled by advertising, that lawns should be massive. I know this, Hank, because it happened to me. When we moved to Indianapolis, I was like "Sarah, we gotta get a huge yard. I wanna riding lawn mower!" and she was like "You are not going to enjoy mowing the lawn." and I was like "I'm gonna love mowing the lawn!".

Yeah, so long story short, the heat index is 114 degrees, and I have to go mow the lawn.

Hank, I'll see you on Monday.