One of my least favorite chores as a rural dweller is mowing the lawn. First of all, I do not find grass all that appealing. In my opinion, it is good for playing sports on and that is about it. Secondly, caring for it requires using a lawn mower, which uses gas and oil, resulting in stinky, polluting exhaust, in addition to all the dust and tiny pieces of plant matter it spews into the air. Thirdly, grass grows fast and to avoid looking like no one lives at our house (which is not really a good comparison because no one lives in the house next door, yet the grass is still cut weekly), requires using the aforementioned, undesirable lawnmower at the very least, every 2 weeks.
As I was mowing the lawn today, I was pondering an opinion piece I read this morning, by Vishaan Chakrabarti, on Urban Omnibus. In the article, the author discusses concentrating the American people in cities as opposed to the potentially limitless sprawl of suburban developments. So theoretically if most of the U.S. population lived in urban areas, we would be using less liquid fuels for transportation because there would be public transportation options in addition to the ability to walk; we would be using less energy for heating because communal heating is more efficient, more easily done and much more common in dense developments; and, we and the Earth would all be healthier and happier for all of those things. According to Edward Glaesner and Mathew Kahn's calculations, it is true that a person in a city has a lower carbon footprint than a person who lives in a suburb. The densification of the population does solve some problems, but not all. And there are lots of people in the U.S. (and most likely the rest of the world) that do not want to live in cities.
Like replacing fossil fuels, there is no silver bullet to become more sustainable as a country (a metaphor, which I hate, and is unfortunately now ubiquitous). There will need to be and already are many, different small and large efforts to reverse the course of, until recently, unregulated green house gases. The efforts that are currently being made are made by a small portion of the population: environmentalists (not as bad a label as it used to be, but still not palatable to many), who are usually folks that deal professionally with natural systems and/or folks who have cared for the Earth all their lives, taught to by tree-huggin' parents. The rest of the population does not put reducing their carbon footprints at the top of their things-to-do list. Honestly, I don't blame them. Just living life everyday is hard enough without guilting oneself into feeling bad about driving to the store for a 1/2 gallon of milk. Working, paying the bills, doing everything kids require for care, mowing the lawn - it's a lot of crap to deal with everyday. Unless one does not have these obligations, how can there possibly be time to figure out how to live sustainably.
It is a very daunting task; it seems like it may need something as dramatic as "O.K., we know that the desire for open land to call one's own has been engendered in the collective psyche of the people of the United States for nearly three-hundred years, but on the count of 3, everyone move to the nearest city. 1...2....3!" How does that sound? Absolutely awful to me. It can't be all or nothing because then we will be stuck with the status quo indefinitely. SO today, I did one small thing that makes my carbon footprint smaller: when my lawn mower sputtered and stopped, before I finished the middle of my backyard, I decided that I am going to let that grass grow. Not until next time, but until it stops growing and then I will have a nice field-like patch, which is way nicer for me to look at then cut grass. I did mow the front and a small area of the back where the picnic table, grill and playground are, but the big patch in the middle is my carbon credit.