Linda Ballew went to court rather than mow her back lawn, but now she is reconsidering. Most people, including the judge, seem to think she is unable or too poor to mow her grass. This seems unlikely. She agreed to mow her front yard and made good on the promise. This is most likely a moral choice (0ne she feels strongly about) rather than mere negligence. Her neighbors are complaining that she has created a habitat for wildlife including nutria, skunks, and snakes. Apparently, neighbors don’t enjoy having wildlife experiences in the neighborhood.
This begs the question of what property rights owners have over their own property? If Ms. Ballew wanted to create a habitat for wildlife, is this not her right? Why do the rights of developers to destroy animal habitats seem to take legal precedence over those who would create or replace habitat? Ms. Ballew’s yard is described as “overgrown,” which means it is full of green plants that will reduce temperatures and cleanse the air. She is creating a green environment, an apparent evil in the US.
Millions of people around the world live in concert with nature rather than in a position of domination. Ms. Ballew challenges her neighbors to learn to live with nature rather than against it. She also challenges them to respect the idea that property owners can make choices about how their property is maintained. If she is, indeed, endangering her neighbors, there is a case to be made that she must stop endangering them, but this may not mean she must completely eliminate the wildlife refuge she has created.
Her righteously indignant neighbors probably have lawns filled with pesticides and dangerous additives that seep into the soil and everything else surrounding the lawn causing damage to animals, including animals of the human variety. These same neighbors surely never even question whether their actions may be causing harm to the environment, wildlife, or humans. Certainty is good when you can find it, but it is rare and should always be held in suspicion.
It is time to question the commitment most in the US have to the bland, overly-manicured lawn, and evaluate what values promote a better good overall. It is also time to recognize that those with differing values may have something to teach us. The answers to life’s questions are rarely clear, and opposing views help us explore our own ethical intuitions.