Former Shows & Episodes

The Manic Gardener

Kate Gardner

The Manic Gardener – So—What’s wrong with lawns?

Lawns are practically an American institution, but they’re increasingly under attack. The amounts of pesticides, fertilizer, and water used on them are all matters of contention. If you’re wondering whether lawns deserve the abuse heaped on them, this show might help you make up your mind.

My first guest, Paul Tukey, is a writer, filmmaker, activist, and founder of Safe He tells the story of Hudson, Quebec, where a persistent local doctor got the town to ban lawn pesticides, and of a school in Ohio where pesticide drift sent 47 students to the doctor. He has the facts on 2,4-D, an herbicide widely used in northern Canada, where so many farmers die of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that it is referred to as “old farmer’s disease.”

But first he tells the story of his conversion from lawn-care professional to a passionate advocate of organic lawn-care. That conversion came only after his own health had deteriorated to the point where doctors told him that the chemicals he was using would kill him if he didn’t quit. But what he didn’t know even then was the effect those chemicals might have on his son.

My second guest is Cristina Milesi, a senior research scientist at California State University, who is affiliated with NASA’s Ames Research Center. Cristina has used satellite images and complex modeling techniques to produce increasingly accurate estimates of the number of acres devoted to lawn in the U.S.—it is only when we have some idea of how big this number is that we can have any sense of the scope of the problem. Cristina’s work extends to the ecological impact of that acreage; in this interview she talks about water use and carbon sinks.

When you think about the the kind of problems faced by Paul Tukey, multiplied by the acreage of lawn we have in the U.S., it looks like we need to make some changes.

Check the blog, The Manic Gardener, for more links and information.