The Green Beat

By Emily Pancoast

Enviromarathon: a crazy outdoor race for tree huggers? Not quite. Last Thursday, the nationwide teach-in took over the John B. Davis lecture hall and the basement of Olin Rice, drawing over 100 students to listen to various presentations on a wide range of environmental issues. This event was part of a month long series of events to accompany the Minnesota Campus Energy Challenge (MCEC), which takes place throughout February. The Enviromarathon was planned by Miwa Oseki Robbins ’12 and Meridith Richmond ’12.Hannah Rivenburgh ’10 presented on “Marking Turf, Mow Jobs, and Mono-culture: The Gendered and Ecologically Fragmented American Suburban Lawn.” Though you might be confused by the connection between gender, lawns, and the environment, Rivenburgh made the relationship compellingly clear. The traditional American lawn is a ubiquitous example of man’s quest for dominion over nature, from the development of suburbs to the eradication of native plant species. Rivenburgh further argues that lawns also represent the hierarchy of race and class in America, citing an example of a suburban house deed from 1911 that states, “This property shall not be sold or rented to any person not of the Caucasian race.”

American suburbs furnish the image of a nuclear family and female docility and domesticity. However, during WWII, when many men went abroad to fight, women had to take over care of the lawn. Advertising of the time appealed to stereotypes of a traditional housewife, with mowers being likened to vacuums and strollers. Cutting the grass was called a “beauty haircut.”

“It made me want to be more conscious of how and what I consume,” Oseki Robbins said.

The event organizers said that overall it was a success, and they hope it will encourage more people to attend EnviroThursday presentations, which are held in Olin Rice at noon every Thursday.