Convert National Mall into giant flower bed? One newspaper op-ed suggests it to fight climate change
Some call it "America's Civic Stage" having hosted public rallies led by Rev. Martin Luther King, The National Mobilization to End the Vietnam War, and the 1987 display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Commentators have pushed back against the idea, citing the Mall's rich history.
A guest op-ed this month by Alexander Nazaryan, a self-described gardener and writer, published in The New York Times urged converting the National Mall’s landscape from a "bland, Kermit-colored expanse" to a "riotous wildflower meadow.”
The author said the change would be a "victory for climate change" and a step towards combating "lawn culture."
"Replacing the Mall with a riotous wildflower meadow stretching from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol would not only beautify what is surely our dullest national park but also signal to millions of visitors that the lawn culture it symbolizes is no longer feasible in a 21st century dominated by extreme weather, species loss and forever chemicals," Nazaryan wrote.
In support of his "lawn culture" argument, Nazaryan links to several apparent diatribes against lawns, with headlines such as "Kill Your Lawn, Before It Kills You" and "To Nurture Nature, Neglect Your Lawn." The former, a video essay, asserts that lawns are an "ecological dead zone that’s sucking the nation’s aquifers dry" and advocates scrapping it "not just to save the planet, but for your own health and sanity too." The latter essay condemns the use of chemicals—or "poison" as the author dubs it—that are used to maintain a lawn's health and aesthetic.
These chemicals include fertilizers and weed killers that can sometimes -- especially if applied improperly --pollute waterways.
Though Nazaryan's rant on Aug. 10 against the National Mall is a seemingly offhanded proposal without much public support, lawns in general have been the target of pushback by environmentalists and media outlets for several years. A 2021 article in Medium lamented the supposed "Social and Ecological Downfall of Lawn Culture," saying that "Lawns are green but their environmental impact isn’t."
A 2017 piece in the Scientific American also took issue with lawns, saying their upkeep "signifies that you care about belonging and want others to see that you are like them."
A blog entry in "Broads Recognition," which claims to be Yale College’s first online feminist publication, widens the scope of blame into progressive politics, calling lawns and the people who maintain them a "telling example of how easily society normalizes... colonialism."
But despite this fringe opposition, the Times editorial has sparked considerable opposition online. Comments posted on Reddit, the popular social media platform, overwhelmingly opposed the author’s wish to turn the historic space into one giant flower bed.
"It’s a gathering place for large events. It’s okay to oppose residential lawns, but I support the lawns at the mall," the individual stated. "It’s like telling your school to convert all its soccer fields to gardens because it’s a lawn. Just stupid."
Another person reminisced that she "did a lot of kite flying and meandering cherry blossom viewing on that lawn," also supporting it staying untouched.
The Mall, also known as "America’s Front Yard," and "America's Civic Stage" has long served as a centerpiece of the nation's capital and is one of the biggest attractions in the District to date. It is frequently home to "thousands of events, such as festivals, concerts, and athletics" throughout the year, the National Park Service notes.
"The March for Life," the largest annual gathering of pro-life advocates in the world, takes place in D.C. each year, with the Mall’s landscape serving as the setting for famous keynote speakers. Donald Trump became the first sitting president to attend the rally, which has been now ongoing annually for more than 50 years.
The ground has also been planted with thousands upon thousands of American flags throughout the years in honor of lives lost serving in the military, the 9/11 terrorist attack, and more.
Another Reddit user explained logistical problems with the proposal, writing, "That section of the Mall has a lot of cut-across traffic."
"The chances of a wildflower meadow surviving are slim" read one posting.
Several organizations have formed over the years with the mission of preserving the historic landmark and all of its beauty. Founded in 2000 by "architects, historians, preservationists, educators, and concerned citizens, the National Mall Coalition says on its website that it’s committed to "advancing the legacy of the National Mall" and seeks to "ensure the vitality, beauty, and continued active role of this national treasure in the capital and in American life."
Another group, Trust for the National Mall, similarly exists for "restoring, enriching, and preserving the National Mall and for ensuring it remains a "vibrant space for all."
Just the News contacted these organizations, as well as the National Park Service, for comment, and none responded by publication time.
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