What is maintenance?

Maintenance is the practice of keeping something in the same state it is already in.

This makes sense when something is currently in a good state, but not when something is in a bad state. We don’t speak of maintaining our health when we have the flu; our doctor doesn’t advise us to maintain our weight after informing us we are obese. Similarly, we don’t maintain our home if we have just bought a fixer-upper: first we need to repair it.

By almost any measure, our Earth is not currently in a good state. Forests are vanishing at an alarming rate. The oceans are on track to contain more plastic than fish in the not-so-distant future. And global temperatures are rapidly moving into a range that we are not certain is compatible with the continued existence of human civilization.

For the same reason that sustainability is no longer good enough, we need to do more than simply maintain our planet: we need to restore it to a healthy state.

Our yards are a microcosm of this. Arguably, a lawn is not a good state that we want to maintain: it is a monoculture of unhealthy non-native plants kept alive with infusions of our dwindling water supplies, applications of chemicals known to cause cancer, and regular use of machines that are contributing to the present climate crisis. When we “maintain” our lawns, we are keeping our yards in a degraded state that is harmful to our own health and the health of our planet.

Now is the time to restore our yards to thriving communities of native plants, free of fossil fuels and toxic chemicals. Only once we have done so will it be possible to maintain our yards in the sense of keeping them in a state that’s worth preserving.

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What is maintenance?

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