Posted on | October 29, 2011 | 10 Comments
Yesterday the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial calling for the end of the Occupy LA encampment around City Hall. Among the reasons given were, “They’re killing the lawn in one of downtown’s rare green spaces, which will have to be replaced at taxpayer expense, and they may be damaging City Hall’s majestic fig trees.”
As one of the paper’s garden writers, I beg to differ. Having been to Occupy LA on Thursday, I can see that the encampment is, indeed, acting as human sheet mulch, a powerful technique for removing lawn. Yet once it’s killed, why replace it? Killing the lawn in a water-strapped region is one of the most beneficial things that any citizen can do. The water utility run by the Council inside City Hall has been paying rebates for home owners to do just that for several years now. That Occupy LA is smothering lawn for them should be regarded as an opportunity. That City Hall Facilities has turned off the sprinklers to the lawn is a good thing; traditionally they have inundated the ground so deeply that mushrooms grew. Reportedly the reason for the waste wasn’t for public enjoyment of the lawn, but so homeless couldn’t lounge on it.
As for the protestors hogging green space, there is a quarter of an acre of open lawn one block away by police headquarters.
As for the majestic figs suffering, the old trees will do just fine without irrigation for a couple of cool months in the fall. Moreover, using lawn sprinklers is not an ideal way to irrigate trees. Time for drip! As a plus, curtailing the chronic overwatering of the trees will reduce fast growth, which will reduce maintenance costs. If the worry is about air to feeder roots, a simple request to camp organizers could probably elicit some action. But this is a temporary camp.
Ultimately, the camp will move. It will rain. There will be a raid. Something will happen. But in the meantime, the Los Angeles City Council should embrace this moment to replace the lawn with native gardens. The latter are more beautiful. They celebrate the fragrant and hardy plants that can survive here without daily watering. They require none of the expensive and polluting grooming required by lawn. This is the time for City Hall to reject a style of horticulture synonymous with environmental collapse and adapt a new, sustainable ethos. There are plenty of people camped down there without jobs who could not only use them but who, with a little imagination, could be mobilized to replant wet gardens into more sustainable ones.
And so, consider this my addition to the Occupy LA Dream & Wishing Tree: May protestors camp long enough that they indeed snuff the lawn around the Los Angeles City Hall. Then, may the City Council not only thank them, but also seize the moment to remove what remains of the cynical green skirt around their high white tower.
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