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Man versus grass

4 months ago

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Andrew English | Journalist


12 December 2023

Two events have defined my lifelong relationship with grass. The first was reading my dad’s copy of John Christopher’s 1956 apocalyptic science-fiction novel The Death of Grass, the second having to perpetually mend my family’s Suffolk Punch lawn mower as it attempted in vain to chew through a succession of discarded dog toys, stones and sticks hidden in our lawn, which mainly consisted of moss, couch grass, clover and dandelions.

The message of the book can be neatly summarised in a quote from Thomas Browne, the 17th century author, in Religio Medici: ‘All flesh is grass, is not only metaphorically, but literally, true; for all those creatures we behold are but the herbs of the field, digested into flesh in them, or more remotely carnified in our selves.’

In other words, without grass, we’re all dead. Why? Because it feeds some of our most significant middle-order life forms, and even if we managed to feed ourselves on lichen, plankton or pop tarts, there wouldn’t be enough to go round and we’d war with each other, and besides the conditions that caused the death of grass wouldn’t be too great for us, either.

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