Reminiscent of Shakespeare’s line about lawyers, the New York Times used that headline to introduce a guest column, published today, against leaf blowers. ‘Tis the season, right? It does not specify whether we should kill leaf blowers or just the machines they operate. Either way, I agree.
Writing from Nashville, the Times’s guest essayist, Margaret Renkl, opens with a pastoral passage:
Into these perfect October afternoons, when light gleams on the red dogwood berries and the blue arrowwood berries and the purple beautyberries; on the last of the many-colored zinnias and the last of the yellow marigolds and the last of the white snakeroot flowers; on the shining hair of babies in strollers and the shining ponytails of young mothers and the tender, shining heads of old men walking dogs — into the midst of all this beauty, the kind of beauty that makes despair seem like only a figment of the midnight imagination, the monsters arrive.
Since I moved to a two-story house in Providence from a fifth-story apartment in its downtown (where I would regularly seek the death penalty for motorcyclists who gunned their engines outside Haven Bros. diner next to City Hall), in 2010, I have transferred my affection to leaf blowers and their operators. I hasten to add, in our ridiculous cancel culture, killing the operators is merely aspirational. Most of them should probably be deported instead. But I would support a government edict banning the operation of leaf blowers.
I’ve long hated the noise those monsters produce. I am no climatista, but even I was blown away by Renkl’s citation of studies on how much carbon monoxide and other pollutants, such as decibels, leaf blowers pump into the air:
This particular environmental catastrophe is not news. A 2011 study by Edmunds found that a two-stroke gasoline-powered leaf blower spewed out more pollution than a 6,200-pound Ford F-150 SVT Raptor pickup truck. Jason Kavanagh, the engineering editor at Edmunds at the time, noted that “hydrocarbon emissions from a half-hour of yard work with the two-stroke leaf blower are about the same as a 3,900-mile drive from Texas to Alaska in a Raptor.”
Can that really be true?
California has just enacted legislation to ban two-stroke leaf blowers (and some other machines, such as generators, that are typical of California overkill). Let’s see whether they actually enforce it. (Doubtful.) Renkl argues, and I agree, that a lawn with fallen leaves is more beautiful than a leaf-free grass zone that pokes its finger in the eye of nature (my words). She writes:
Fallen leaves provide protection for overwintering insects and the egg sacs of others. Leaf blowers, whether electric or gasoline-powered, dislodge the leaf litter that is so essential to insect life — the insect life that in turn is so essential to birds and other wildlife. … Our yard is a mixture of grasses and clovers and wildflowers, so we can safely let our leaves lie. If a high wind carries them away, it’s hard not to wail, “Wait! I was saving those!”
As I began to write this I wondered whether I should fess up at the beginning or the end to hiring a garden service that uses leaf blowers. I have a heart condition that makes it risky for me to rake leaves. I doubt that’s really true. I could rake them slowly enough to get rid of them before gusts of wind blow them back. But then I would have to bag them. World without end! Yes, I do feel guilty. Our back yard is tiny, with no lawn in front. Don’t kids rake leaves anymore? (Oh, and I actually have one of those!) I also don’t want to shovel the upcoming snow, either, but at least the shovelers don’t use snow blowers, at least ours don’t. I wonder how bad they are.
Woe is me! But this is the 21st century. Why can’t we send the leaves to the moon?