FACT: Climate Change is Happening ~ What Can We Do?

April 13, 2014
The Greatest Threat to Earth

Credit: Emilys Quotes

As news of the recent  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report filters into our news stream and the realisation that time is running out for us to adapt to the massive changes in climate that will become our norm, my mind has turned to lawnmowers. Yes, those innocuous little machines that millions of us push or steer up and down our gardens on sunny days in a never-ending battle against nature.

The new IPCC report, where 1200 scenarios from scientific literature were analysed, show that global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change, with emissions growing more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades. 

We’ve known for years that our dependence on fossil fuels has to change and that we’re going to have to alter our lifestyles as global warming and climate extremes begin to affect us all, but have we been sticking our heads in the sand? How did emissions grow so quickly when we knew there were problems up ahead? Cutting emissions from electricity production to near zero is commonly featured in the report’s scenarios. But using energy efficiently is also important.

So how can we make a difference? Where, individually, do we begin?

It strikes me that we have to start with a change in mindset and shake away some habits and beliefs of old, before the planet decides it’s fed up waiting for us, and strips them away fast.

Many of us are caught in fossil fuel traps that we can’t see our way out of. Thanks to the economic downturn, we can’t afford to change our cars to more fuel-efficient models however much we’d like to; public transport doesn’t exist for rural dwellers and solar panels are a pipe dream when we’re struggling to pay our day-to-day bills. We’ve switched to energy-efficient light bulbs, turned down the heating and we’re saving water which is all well and good, we’re doing our bit, but what else can we do? Surely it’s up to our governments and policy makers to see us through and make the right decisions for us?

Maybe not entirely. It’s easy to throw our hands up and think that our reliance on fossil fuels is someone else’s problem, but it’s not. We have to take responsibility for our actions and choices, both in our business’ and our homes.

So with that in mind, my eyes have turned to our trusty lawnmower.

We’ve been thinking about the redundant area that is our lawn for a while but it was following my recent visit to the eco village of Cloughjordan, a lawn free environment, that our lawnmower’s days became numbered. It didn’t worry me that the naturalised grasses growing between the houses there were knee-high because, as a chemical free gardener, I was too busy thinking what a fantastic place it was for wildlife and beneficial insects to live in too. Being in a lawn free zone made me question our own lawn making habits.

In our garden that was fashioned from a farmer’s field, we sowed a tough grass seed lawn “for our children”, yet the reality is that kids enjoy hiding in long grass, making secret dens away from the adults. Now they’re older they have sports pitches in the village they’re throwing, kicking or hitting balls around in every week, they’re hardly ever in our garden sitting on the lawn!

Irish CornflowerAs I was trundling my petrol driven lawnmower up and down once again, having locked it in the shed for the past six months, I was thinking about the fuel it was using and the time and effort it takes to cut the grass every week, and I wondered why we do it? How or why did this lawn mowing fashion begin? Was it some unconscious desire to prove we can tame nature or was it just because a perfectly clipped lawn ‘looks good’?

I grew up in a house with a lawn, all my neighbours had lawns, when I was renting I dreamt about a house with a lawn so it was by default that when we bought a house we’d sow one. A lawn looks pretty when it’s just been mowed, it’s the socially acceptable thing to do and that makes us feel good but on reflection, gazing at a field full of wildflowers can provoke a much deeper emotional response from many of us than admiring a stripey green lawn.

Mixed WildflowersAs a result of our realisation that mowing a lawn is a complete waste of time and energy, Mr G and I are now deliberating over the alternatives, which include:

1. Buy a couple of lambs to graze it, with a view to them finding their way into the (A rated) deep freeze.

Pink Wildflower2. Extend the veg garden and grow a lot more vegetables.

3. Buy a couple of piglets and let them turn the grass over so that in the long-term we can..

4. Plant a wildflower garden.

We haven’t decided yet. I think we may have to dig out the self-sufficiency books, put pen to paper with a few ideas. But whatever happens, the lawnmower will not be used as much as it once was. For the moment it’ll be pulled out of the shed to mow the paths between the vegetable beds, with the clippings used as a mulch, until we widen the beds and make them even more productive.

Wildflower MeadowWhat’s important right now is that we make changes to our behaviour, however small and seemingly inconsequential. We have to consider the impact we’re having on the environment, the landscape around us and how much we’re contributing to global warming and climate change.

What do you think? Could you ditch the lawnmower or have you already done so and have never looked back?

* The Press Release released today from Working Group III of the IPCC can be viewed here.



  • Reply Julian April 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Id love to stop mowing, but cats seem to love pooing in the long grass!

    • Reply greensideupveg April 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      It probably wouldn’t matter if we weren’t walking in it 🙂 Friends of ours used to let their grass grow and just strim pathways through it which was quite magical. There’s a few sites on line that give instructions for solar lawnmowers which is a pretty cool idea too.

  • Reply Naomi Lavelle April 13, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    We just bought a new mower after ours died half way through last Summer! We (ok not me but the hubby) don’t cut as often as most and we do not really have manicured lawns but you make a good point! I guess even if people leave a larger verge for wildlife in general it could kill two birds with one stone… Less area to mow

    • Reply greensideupveg April 13, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      Naomi we only bought ours a couple of years ago but it’s really became apparent over the past couple of years that nobody really goes into the back garden other than to go to the trampoline. So far piglets are winning. I accidentally deleted a large chunk of this post and had to rewrite so you were all saved from a Roundup spraying rant of verges 😉 but yes, imagine how many pretty verges we might see if people started with those. I’d love to see roundabouts as wildflower havens too 🙂

  • Reply Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC) April 14, 2014 at 12:57 am

    This post is very timely Dee. I’ve just watched a sobering documentary on climate change – it tracked the impact on the Sahara dessert and what this will mean for the people who depend on a stable climate for growing their crops and feeding their families. It made the point that people who will be most affected will be those in Africa who are trying to eke out a living from the environment – the ones who did the least to cause climate change.

    • Reply greensideupveg April 14, 2014 at 8:10 am

      I know in the grand scheme of things Marie, not mowing a lawn may seem very superficial compared to the sacrifices so many will and are already making yet it represents so much more. It’s about accepting that we have to change and realising that many of our actions are selfish in the grand scheme of things. The idea of giving up a lawn will be quite a big deal for many, some might think it laughable, but really, it’s time to think about our day to day actions and to change some of them.

  • Reply Amanda Webb (@Spiderworking) April 14, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I had to laugh a little bit when I saw this post. After many years of annoying our neighbours with an overgrown garden full of thistles and weeds we got our garden sorted and now have a large back lawn. We now mow like the rest of the Joneses every week and yes there is something comforting not only about having a neatish lawn but also about fitting in. I don’t think we’ll be giving up just yet! I love the idea of a wild flower garden, it’s probably what we’d like if we could keep the thistles away 🙂

    You are right though we are all ignoring global warming. I used to be far better but I think green fatigue crept in and now although I’m reasonably eco-friendly I do do stuff that I know isn’t helpful.

    • Reply greensideupveg April 14, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Hopefully the IPCC report will keep climate change in the news more and people will start to consider their actions. When I was thinking about this post we came up with the idea of solar powered lawn mowers which do exist! Just google if you’re interested and your partner is handy, that might make the neighbours peer over their fences for a different reason 😉

  • Reply Lorna April 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    We do cut the lawn but not every week! It really needs a ride on one but we got a small one and give our 11 yo pocket money for cutting it, I do have two lambs eating part of it too. Wildflower gardens look great and if there are paths cut through it, they look intentional! The hassle then is strimming it at the end of the season though.
    It’s true though, it can all seem impossible but yet if we all do our little bit. It’s when you think of so many Americans using tumble dryers when they have plenty of sunshine for drying clothes that it can get infuriatingly frustrating though.

    • Reply greensideupveg April 14, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      I know what you mean and, as you know, blogged about that a couple of years ago but I think we have to get over worrying about how other countries are handling climate change and worry about our own. I was discussing it with a group this morning who mentioned China and India pumping out tonnes of emissions, almost as it gave them an excuse not to have to do anything. It might seem that we’re throwing pebbles in an ocean but we have to start somewhere. Lambs on the lawn seems the least shocking as I know what it’ll look like once we let the pigs at it!

  • Reply Sustainable Rhythms April 14, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    You really raise some good questions here Dee.

    Me personally, we don’t own our property, and only have a very small, fenced in green space in the back. So I have been using a manual mower for the past 3 years. This obviously would be tough for someone with a bigger property.

    But the question remains, why do we cut our grass at all? Obviously it’s a cultural phenomenon that is deeply embedded in the psyche of many western societies.

    One of my favourite books is ‘The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City LIfe’ by Richard Sennett. I think some of his main themes are very appropriate to what you touch on here. We fear the Disorderly Other, and unfortunately for the environment, the guy down the street with the uncut lawy is generally seen as the lazy, ‘disorderly other’.

    • Reply greensideupveg April 14, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      Thanks Derek and yes, that is the question! The need to conform over the care of our the planet.. I’ll take a look for the book you mention, it sounds interesting, thanks.

  • Reply 5 reasons why we should eat 'in season' (& eat rhubarb cake too!) April 17, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    […] 5. Eating in season is good for the environment. At a time when climate change and fossil fuels are uppermost in many of our minds thanks to the recent IPCC report, there are less air and road miles used when we shop for and eat ‘in season’ local […]

  • Reply How to Set Up a Rainwater Irrigation System for Your Garden May 27, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    […] the talk of water charges and alarm bells ringing from the IPCC report, thoughts of conserving water are very much on people’s minds. Either too much or not enough […]

  • Comments:

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.