“Ten years ago, I wanted to send a satellite into space to take continuous photos of Earth. One of my political competitors said it wasn’t worth it. That it would be like watching grass grow. So I asked my staff to find out how much Americans spend on their lawns. It was 35 billion dollars. So I told him that Americans like watching the grass grow!”
This is what former Vice President of the United States Al Gore told the participants at the Climate Reality Leadership Program held in the third week of February in Delhi.
Thirty-five billion dollars?
But it was unclear whether it was annual spending or something else. Some bit of Googling unravelled some more interesting facts: America did spend $40 billion on lawn in 2011. That was a little more than half of what it spent on beer ($96 billion) the same year, less than what it spent on gambling ($34.6 billion), chocolate ($16 billion), but fairly closer to what it spent on child care ($47 billion; source: mentalfloss.com).
Last year, one of my NRI friends Minu Mathew wrote eloquently on how it hurts to see over “800 million gallons of gas” and many more millions of gallons of precious water being lavished on the American lawns to keep them lush-green.
When we talk of lawns, can pesticides be far away? Check out the “macabre picture”:
“Take 30 commonly used lawn pesticides;
19 are linked with cancer,
13 are linked with birth defects,
21 with reproductive effects,
26 with liver or kidney damage,
15 with neuro-toxicity, and
11 with disruption of the hormonal system
17 are detected in groundwater,
23 have the ability to seep into drinking water sources,
24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms,
11 are toxic to bees, and
16 are toxic to birds.”
I began thinking whether India could have spent this large a sum on something better. But given how full-grown trees are being flattened to make way for gated communities in Namma Bengaluru which get invariably fitted with lawns later on, I honestly don’t think so. People who are ready to chop off magnificent flowering branches only to let the sun shine on their grass patches aren’t a rare breed! Put simply, the craze for the grassy green surface that can barely support biodiversity is unfathomable. If we are not spending anywhere close to what America does on its lawns, it’s because we just don’t have it.
Let’s get back to “Goresat”: Deep Space Climate Observatory or, DSCOVR. It was launched on February 11, 2015, from Cape Canaveral.
According to Wikipedia, DSCOVR will monitor variable solar wind condition, observe phenomena on Earth including changes in ozone, aerosols, dust and volcanic ash, cloud height, vegetation cover and climate. It’s been positioned in such a way that it will have a continuous view of the Sun and the sunlit side of the Earth. It will take full-Earth pictures about every two hours and be able to process them faster than other Earth observation satellites.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
Even more beautiful would be to see the pictures showing the disappearance of lawns and re-emergence of green giants. That’s perhaps the only way we can start undoing the damage done to Earth.