I hate grass.
Well, that's not really truthful.
It's not that I hate the plant–or I reckon it's plantS, since there are thousands of varieties of grasses–I actually love walking barefoot through cool, shady, dry grass in the summertime. No, mostly I just hate mowing. Why? Because I'm lazy. No, that's not true either. I just think mowing the lawn is a waste of time and energy. I'd much rather be sitting in my Adirondack chair drinking a pina colada, a beer, and reading a book than pushing some damned mower around the yard. So I rip up grass whenever I can find an excuse to do so. And now, since reading Ms. Flores' book, I do it with a real sense of purpose! It's not just to serve my inherent laziness but to feed the world! or at least to feed myself, which is pretty damned important, plus, I love 'maters. That would be TO-maters. I f'n love 'em.
But it's not just to feed myself, or the world that I consent to bend over and rip up my lawn. To get me to bend at all–I'm of the un-bendy sort, not a yoga master like Ms. Flores–you have to have some pretty compelling reason or mission. Feeding the world sounds pretty compelling, but in reality the world isn't lacking food. That sounds funny to say, since we all know there are people "starving in China"–as my parents always told us growing up. That was in the 70s, about the time that the U.S. government decided that farmers should "get big, or get out" and ramp up food production to "feed the world." Of course, the location of the starving children seems to have drifted over the decades since then, from China to Bangladesh–where ever the hell that is–to Ethiopia (where they apparently don't know when Christmas is, even though most of them are, you know, Christians), to Somalia, where most of them are not. It seems that no matter how much food we produce, children of all religions are still starving. Why is that?
It's because we don't need more food. We need less food, and better quality food, shared more equally. We need to de-commoditize food so that the price isn't too low. I know that sounds bizarre, but cheap food isn't good for anyone. Why? Because cheap food is produced by massive, corporate agricultural monsters for the purpose of feeding bank accounts–usually in offshore banks so they can avoid paying taxes–not to feed starving children. The purpose of producing that food has nothing to do with feeding the starving masses. Monsanto isn't giving away food. They're not in that business, because giving away things isn't business at all. What they and the rest of the big agricultural corporations are doing is creating an international monopoly on the food we all eat. And that food is crap. It's ruining our health, and the money it generates is used to corrupt our political systems.
I'm not going launch into a long rant on GMOs or Citizen's United–we'll get to those another time, maybe. The important thing is to realize that what these companies do with all that food is manipulate the price of food, downward. That's so they can drive out all local competition, here and abroad. The reason people are starving in Africa and elsewhere has more to do with the overproduction of crappy American grains than it does with desertification, or the lack of farming skills of the average African farmer. They know how to grow stuff. They just can't compete when Monsanto comes to town with their artificially low prices.
I know it seems I went off on a tangent there–I do that a lot–but hang with me hobbits, I'm comin' round the bend.
The reason I hate lawns, these days, isn't as much because I have to mow them–which I do still hate–but that they're taking up space that could be growing real food to feed me and my neighbors. What motivates me to bend my torso to push my shovel under those roots–bones, tendons, and back muscles screaming the entire time–to pull up that lawn and planet 'maters, is not that I hate mowing that much. I now have one of the old fashioned 'reel' mowers and they're kind of relaxing to listen to, if not to push. No, it's not that. I do it now because every blade I pull, every 'mater, 'tater, and kale plant I put into the ground in its place, is kickin' Monsanto–or as I like to call them–Mon-Sauron (because they are every bit as evil, or worse, than the Dark Lord in Tolkien's epic story), in the balls. They love lawns. They hate home gardens. They hate community gardens and greenhouses. Ergo, I love all of those things.
Growing our own food is the most revolutionary thing we can do. It's hobbity, like Frodo walking the Ring to Mordor. Ron Finley, the 'Gansta Gardener' from Los Angeles–who is leading a revolution in urban gardening there–says, "Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries." Hell yeah!
I say, "Watch me eat this strawberry, Mr. Mon-Sauron! I'll spit the stem in your eye!" Yeah, the reason to tear up that lawn is that if you want to solve world hunger, we need to destroy the real culprit: the corporate food system. We need to bring it down in a smoking ruin, like Frodo and Sam did to Sauron's black tower of Barad Dur! Every strawberry planted by a home gardener or community gardener, takes money out of that corporate system's offshore accounts, and puts it back into ours and into the tax system in our own countries. It also makes it easier for that struggling farmer in Africa to keep farming instead of being pushed off of his farm and into a city, where he and his family will starve, thereby giving us a new place to point to when our kids won't eat their spinach. "Eat up! There are starving children in (insert the latest country afflicted with RoundUp infested, Frankesteined, Mon-Sauron food)."
Grass is Mon-Saruon's friend, and hell, they've even figured out how to genetically engineer IT, so that it will resist copious applications of RoundUp and Agent Orange. Tear up that grass, Hobbits, and plant some f'n 'maters! Tell Mon-Sauron to kiss our ass!
Steve Bivans is the author of Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living. Visit him in his online 'Shire' at www.stevebivans.com.