The Lawn-Chemical Economy and Its Discontents
The daily geographies of consumption represent some of the most ecologically important and economically complex frontiers for critical research. Among these, the turfgrass lawn is perhaps the most overlooked, owing to its very ordinariness. Despite the serious risks posed to human health and ecosystem viability by high-input lawn systems, little critical scholarship has engaged the lawn, especially as a structured economic phenomenon. This paper explores the forces and political economic conditions under which the lawn is produced, promulgated, and resisted in North America. In the process, we draw attention to the deeply structured economic impetus behind the direct sale of potentially toxic chemicals to urban dwellers. Based on survey research and a review of the industry, we argue (1) that chemical demand is driven by urban growth and classed aesthetics, (2) that direct and aggressive sales of chemicals to consumers are spurred by crises in the chemical-formulator industry, (3) that the search for consumer-lawn markets is driven by declining margins in the worldwide chemical trade, and (4) that counterinstitutional struggles against high-input lawns represent a salvo against otherwise abstract and daunting cultural-economic hegemony.
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