In New Jersey, there's a townhouse with a pristine green lawn that kids can't enjoy.
"It's really frustrating. These lawns are useless to me," a suburban mom in New Jersey told me. She lives in a beautiful community full of lush lawns. It's the middle of summer, but there are no dandelions in sight. And that's the problem: the lawns are so green because they're full of pesticides.
Warning signs urge parents to keep kids off the chemical-laden grass. The mom, who would rather not be named, says that most lawns and parks in her area are like this. There are plenty of them, but her kids can't play in them."I just want to let my baby experience the grass," she said. "Also, I'm sure it's not good for animals. The other day, a woman found a dead deer in her backyard."
In the 40s, people often mixed clover with grass to keep lawns strong. But over the last few decades, pesticides have taken over. In 2012, the world spent $56 billion on pesticides. They go into farms, lawns, parks and just about anywhere that humans grow plants. These chemicals keep parks picture perfect. They just make them useless as actual parks.
That may be more than just annoying. New research has uncovered the obvious: play is good for kids. It helps them discover the world and learn how to get along with other people. But it's tough to get enough play in when there are so few public spaces where kids can play. And the few that exist are often covered in chemicals that make parents uncomfortable.
There are alternatives to pesticides, like planting a lawn full of clover. Besides, maybe a dandelion here or there isn't the worst thing.