Saturday Mailbox


June 11, 2005

For a better life, we should resist call of the lawn

The Sun's editorial "The call of the lawn" (June 4) makes clear the absurdity of America's infatuation with the obligatory green patches by our houses. They do, indeed, soak up time and money, contaminate the environment, fill our weekends with the noise of mowers and squander precious water. All true.

But the editorial missed the opportunity to nudge us into a saner attitude toward our gardens.

Our state has a rich variety of plants that could be used to replace the abominable lawn with a tiny woodland or meadow. Communities where many people adopt this approach would be quieter on weekends, cooler on hot summer days and do less damage to our stressed environment.

Baltimore could save thousands of dollars and cut greenhouse gas emissions by changing some of our parks from mowed meadows under mature trees to native woodlands.

This process was begun about 20 years ago in Stony Run Park.

Largely maintained by the community, this tiny urban forest now has a great diversity of wildflowers, native shrubs and trees that provide a cool and quiet woodland for the many enthusiastic walkers and runners who visit.

I await anxiously the day when tree-hugging entrepreneurs discover the fortunes to be made in eco-gardening.

I would be happy to see them become rich as they free us from our addiction to lawns and steer us to a healthier environment.

Michael Beer


The writer was a co-founder of the Jones Falls Watershed Association.

Cost, inconvenience keep us home alone

The Sun's article "Home alone, but entertained" (June 5) seemed to miss at least two important points regarding why attendance may be decreasing at events in the area.

It lays almost all of the responsibility for "fractured" social activities on the general public. This oversimplifies the problem. And at least two issues were not mentioned in the article that should have been noted - infrastructure and cost.

If there is a decrease in attendance at social events, a major contributor is the lack of infrastructure to support crowds of any size.

Items such as the following are increasingly lacking at social events in this area: facilities for even the briefest of rests, e.g. benches or chairs; adequate restroom facilities; adequate staff to handle clean-up or repair; and adequate parking or public transportation services to get people in and out of the event area safely and relatively quickly.

Considering just this short list (there are many more things that could be added), it's not very difficult to understand why attendance may be dropping at public events.

People commute about 45 minutes or so to work every day in this area. They battle through traffic just to get to and from home. Why go through so much hassle in their free time?

Cost is another important factor in planning to go to an event, but it was only mentioned briefly in the article.

My family of three has to pay almost $50 just to get into the Renaissance Festival for one day; we pay about $30 just to go see a movie; an Orioles game costs close to $30 just for three of us to sit in upper-deck seats, and better seating can easily cost $60 or more.

Combine such entrance fees with the cost of parking, of fuel to get to the event and of refreshments at the event and it's not very difficult to determine why attendance may be dwindling.

People can't afford to attend, plain and simple.

The choice usually boils down to: Should I buy tickets for event X for the family for one day, or spend the same money on cable or satellite TV or Internet services, telephone services and the like for one month?

That's a real choice for a non-trivial number of people in the area.

Steve Frost


Internet opens up new forms of contact

There's no need to worry about people staying home to socialize on the Internet; the Internet has actually added to the quality of my family's social life ("Home alone, but entertained," June 5).

We live in an area without public transportation, so my daughter and her friends cannot easily visit each other. They do, however, socialize together through a Web site geared to young people.

Not only does my daughter get to talk to people she already knows, but she also meets kids from all over the world. She talks about their school lives in Japan and England, and how they differ from hers. This experience has had an enriching impact.

And my son keeps in touch with his college buddies while he's home for the summer.

I can feel parents' concerns as I write this. And, yes, just as you would teach your child to recognize hazardous social situations in "real life," you must teach them to do the same thing on the Internet. But children are becoming more savvy in this regard.

For myself, I belong to a local Internet group of artists that discusses many issues, aesthetic and political (not to mention practical).

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