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A Chemical Reaction: And a pretty amazing reaction from the crowd.

When I was asked to go and speak on a panel after the showing of A Chemical Reaction in Saanich, not once but twice in one day I only had one question, "You want me to talk about lawns?"

A little bit of a redundant question I'll admit but my philosophy about lawns has been largely "GET RID OF THEM".

Suburbia

Suburbia schematics have "lawns" identified as "recovery zones" for automobiles. That's right those areas of great input outside your home are classified as "recovery zones" in urban planning because of our focus on.... the automobile.

Between that and the fact that the maintenance, installation and industry of lawns is the second largest agriculture in North America (yea it's seriously the second largest) I have no great love of a agriculture that requires huge amounts of time, energy, water, money and resources while yielding nothing I can eat, sell or otherwise use save for the two time I can remember actually laying down on my turf for recreation.

And thus me talking about organic lawn care was a little bizarre.

Up from the AshesHowever, lawns do have there place. For example this is a great application of lawn on Up from the Ashes inner city farm in Victoria, BC. Lush, gorgeous and has application for Angela Moran's (the farmer) new toddler. Not a bad place for a lawn.

My contribution was to come after watching A Chemical Reaction by Paul Tukey, called "The Al Gore of Lawn Care" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. This film chronicled the determination of Hudson, Quebec to ban cosmetic pesticide use over 20 years ago. This prompted a court battle with the pesticide companies who were defending their right to poison residents and ultimately resulted in a Supreme Court of Canada decision that not only upheld the ruling of lesser courts but also created the precautionary principle stating: something does not have to harm or kill us before it is banned.

I offered the organic lawn advice I teach through Gaia College, as much as possible in 10 minutes.

Here's a few gems....

Permaculture BC's Top 3 Organic Lawn Tips:
1 Only cut 1/3 of the height of the lawn.
2 Always leave clippings (it's fertilizer made by the lawn).
3 Increase organic matter (top dress with compost) to increase the water holding capacity of the soil and thus less watering.

After the advice the questions came hard and fast about plant racism... also called "weeds".
Scotch Broom
It was a heated discussion focused around Cytisus scoparius or commonly hated as Scotch Broom. Introduced to the area by Captain Walter Grant in 1850, Scotch Broom is a native to Europe and is prolific in disturbed areas. It's a pioneer species and as such is hardy and fixes a heck of a lot of nitrogen. The other very interesting piece about this plant is you'll find it all along road side ditches (quite disturbed) but 10-20 feet into the forest behind the ditch... no Scotch Broom.

Shocking I know.

Also it was found that in road rage Seattle there was one particular time of year when the incidents of road rage decreased... yup you got it when Scotch Broom was flowering. Seems the blooms are slight narcotic and helped calm the driving population. Does the ecosystem know what plant to put where or what?!

All in all a great day and a wonderful educational opportunity to speak to more folks about understanding our world to progress to working with instead of against nature.

Our thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society and the local chapter of Ecocell that sponsored the event.

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Permaculture is a science based ethical design system. Used to answer the all encompassing question "How do we live sustainably?" Founded in three ethics -  Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share practitioners of permaculture use nature inspired design with tools and methods based in science, engineering, agriculture, finances, community building to create sustainable regenerative human habitat. This design system uses organic agriculture, urban farming, regenerative design, and many other ways of knowing to teach and provide a practical framework for individuals to take responsibility for themselves, their children and their community.