Lord knows I hate to rain on the parade of this important exhibit at D.C.’s National Building Museum: "Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design." And you know I’m all aboard the sustainable train myself. And to echo all the good press the exhibit’s been getting, I applaud it for its very existence and prominence (including a Laura Bush drop-by), if not for getting it right in the details.
See, while one of the 5 excellent principles it espouses is responsible land use, the devil is in the details: "Exposed earth absorbs rain and runoff." HUH? Seems that "green" is no longer green but the color of bare earth. Couldn’t any gardener have told these folks how ass-backwards that is? Not only does bare earth NOT absorb rain well but it doesn’t stay bare for long. I was going to cite some soil erosion sources on the importance of plants but is that really necessary?? (See it for yourself here. Scroll down to #3 and let your mouse reveal the advice.)
And there’s more. Under the heading "large environmental footprint" – bad homeowner – the exhibit tells us that lawns are expensive to maintain and pesticide-dependent. Well, if museum curators would only read gardening blogs they’d know the lawn picture is waaay more complicated than that. My own good-enough lawn needs one organic feeding in the fall and about 6 mowings each season. Plus, it does a terrific job of absorbing rain. So there.
Then there’s this misleading but politically correct declaration: "Native plants require minimal water and pesticides." Why can’t they just say "Use plants that require minimal water and pesticides"?
But back to the exhibit. It’s running until June of 2007 so check it out next time you’re in D.C. and give me a reality check – Am I being overly crabby?
The National Building Museum, built in the 1880s to house the old Pension Bureau, is worth a look-see all by itself and it’s easily accessible by subway. Take a virtual tour of its main hall – the site of almost constant fetes, including inaugural balls. Unbelievably today, this hall was originally filled with rows of government clerk-typists.