I'll be cruising nicely along, learning about city after city that is allowing its residents to produce their own food with hen chickens or dwarf dairy goats, and then I'll attend a hearing in Greeley where - after an absence of debate or any logical reasoning - the city council will vote down an extensively studied pro-chicken ordinance. Or, after reading article after article about school gardens, edible landscaping, and urban farming projects, I'll come across this article about a couple in Orange, CA that were sued by the city for letting their lawn die during a drought.
This couple was motivated to make a change in their yard after they had a baby and started thinking more about the future. They decided that spending hundreds of dollars a year to maintain a lush green lawn in the middle of what is (essentially) a desert didn't make sense.
Their annual water usage went from 299,221 gallons in a year with the grass, to 58,348 gallons per year once they stopped watering their lawn.
The city ended up charging one of the residents with a misdemeanor that carried a possible fine of $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.
There's more to the story, of course, and you can click here to read the full article. The couple eventually agreed to the city's demands to plant more vegetation (because apparently mulching with wood chips just won't do). Click here to read the follow-up article.
It's almost disturbingly "retro" when things like this happen. So many cities (and individual citizens) are making sustainable choices, and yet some places (and individual people) seem determined to keep us locked in a 1950's technicolor suburbia.
But as disheartening as stories like this one (and the episode in Greeley) can be, I believe they point to the fact that things are changing simply because the stories are so absurd. Whatever the reasons folks have for opposing these common-sense sustainable living choices (usually some antiquated notions about what will affect their property value) they're becoming vastly out-numbered and out-reasoned.
And speaking of property values, I have a friend who put his house up for sale in October 2009, even though he knew the market was in terrible shape. He and his wife allotted themselves 6 months to sell their house before moving out of state. By the way... his house came with a chicken coop in the backyard, raised garden beds, and it was equipped for solar.
Want to guess what happened? The house sold within a week at the full asking price. My friend and his wife ended up having to rent an apartment for 6 months so they'd have somewhere to live before moving out of state. Go figure.