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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


The Leaf Blower Wars

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: lawns, gardening, landscaping, leaf blowers, noise, air pollution, health, politics, New Yorker, environment, Keith Goetzman,

Leaf blower, worm's eye viewAs autumn sweeps across the land, so does the grating whine of leaf blowers—and in some cities, peace-seeking citizens are campaigning to restrict use of the devices. New Yorker writer Tad Friend infiltrates both sides of this conflict in the Oakland bedroom community of Orinda, California, emerging with a vivid and often hilarious portrait of a pitched turf battle in which many of the combatants harbor a certain strain of righteousness. Neat gardens and trees are a treasured status measure in Orinda, writes Friend:

The story describes a faceoff between a leaf-blower opponent and a gardener over the gardeners’ allegedly illegal blowing on a holiday—an encounter that a neighbor, Susan Kendall, captured on video:

The tale suggests that leaf-blower ordinances based on sound levels are impossibly hard to enforce, whereas demonstrating a public health threat—from particulate matter blasted into the air, for instance—is more enforceable but tougher to pull off. That hasn’t stopped an increasing number of cities—including, very recently, Coral Gables, Florida—from moving toward leaf-blower restrictions.

In the meantime, blower foes can humiliate their enemies by citing a city of Los Angeles study that “showed a grandmother using a rake and broom took only 20 percent longer to clean a test plot than a gardener with a blower.”

Source: The New Yorker (article available to subscribers only) 

Image by Micah Boy, licensed under Creative Commons.