Bumps in the Road

In July 2023 this Notice from the Civil Enforcement Division of the Department of Community and Neighborhoods was taped to our front door. We had stopped mowing to allow Nature to find equilibrium, letting the grass go to seed and not differentiating "weeds" from other plants unless they were categorized as Toxic by the state. The taller the grass and weeds, the more their roots are protected from sun and dry air, greatly diminishing their water needs in this high mountain desert. I contemplated the possible ways to meet the needs of this City department while doing my best to protect the ecologies of the space. I hoped that the mow strip and the part of our yard visible from the street were the areas of primary concern and chose to address those. I couldn't avoid damaging the plants and grasses. To try to minimize the disturbance to the other more than human beings, I decided to do the cutting by hand with shears. I felt that mowing would likely injure and kill more of the tiny beings living in these spaces. Despite this, I saw a tremendous number of bugs (including praying mantis, sow/potato bugs, box elder bugs, spiders) scurry away after having lived peacefully and raised young in these protected spaces. In the days it took me to address this request, I had lots of time to consider all aspects of our cultural attitudes re: suburban landscapes. I kept coming back to what I was taught about the importance of the aesthetic appearance of one's yard for the sake of neighbors, status and property values. This highlighted, for me, our unquestioned human supremacy perspective. The value of the lives of plants, insects, small reptiles and tiny mammals are not factored into this policy. Only human visual preferences are considered. I wonder how we might broaden peoples' perspectives to consider including the wellbeing of non-human beings in these policies and the importance of mitigating climate change. Our current cultural perspectives are rooted in colonialist 19th century beliefs about yards as an indicator of socio-economic character, exclusively. Times change. Fingers crossed for the City to accept the modifications, and for Nature to recover her equilibrium.

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