Shift Your Perspective

 

 

Wow. What an eye-opening read.

 

This weeks reading consisted of chapters 4, 5 ,6 and 8, of Jared Diamonds book, Guns, Germs, and Steel. Each chapter had inter-related and thought provoking topics; Farmer Power, History’s Haves and Have nots, To Farm or Not to Farm, and Apples or Indians.

 

For me, Diamonds most thought-provoking theory is that agriculture was an essential step in the creation of guns, germs and steel. But how? Diamond focuses on the concept that, “Depending on their geographic location, societies differ in how readily they can receive technology.”

 

Diamond goes into much detail explaining this theory. He can be hard to follow sometimes but I was still engaged by all of his interesting ideas. His writing style is very factual and in depth. I appreciate how he asks “Why?” after a lot of his thoughts, it was almost like a little reminder about the bigger picture he is focusing on.

 

Diamond explains that throughout history, certain locations have had an advantage and were extremely successful due to the plants and animals they’ve had access to. Access to highly productive crops, usually within the Poaceae(grass) family, played a significant role in the success of a farmer. For example, look at the success of wheat? Its easy to plant, collect the seeds, store the food, and has a high yield;not all geographic locations had access to crops with all of these characteristics.  Farmers were also more productive if they had access to species such as cattle, goats, ox, sheep, etc. They could use domesticated animals for meat or leather, or continuous supply wool or milk. Raising livestock began to eliminate the need to hunt for wild game. Domesticated animals were also used as manual labour to plough fields, creating a highly productive and less labour intensive form of farming.  Farmers that had a highly productive crop, and domesticated animals in their geographical region were destined for success. The combination of domesticated plants and animals promoted an extraordinary agricultural advance for humankind, creating more energy and time for us to enhance technological skills. Agriculture was an essential step in the creation of guns, germs and steel.

 

Absolutely amazing! This book has completely shifted my perspective on the impact of agriculture.

 

Diamond, J. 1999. Guns, Germs, and Steel:The Fate of Human Societies. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., New York. Page 81-113, 131-156.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Discover Your Connection To Nature

Pollan M. 2001. The botany of desire. Toronto (ON): Random House of Canada Limited. 271 p.

Diamond J. 1999. Guns, germs, and steel. New York (NY): W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 480 p.

I have only read one chapter from each of these books, the introduction chapter of The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, and chapter 7 of Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, and I’m already hooked! I found that both of these authors used a really nice balance of scientific, and passionate writing styles. Michael Pollan shares his thought-provoking concepts about the plants view on the world, while Jared kept me engaged with his plethora of facts. Each book was thoroughly engaging and I look forward to reading more very soon.

 

I think The Botany of Desire is the best book I’ve ever read! Michael Pollan was very impressive in the sense that he formed a whole new perspective on plants for me. He made me feel personally connected to his writing and made me think of things I’ve never thought of before. On page xv, I came across a thought provoking statement, “Did I choose to plant these potatoes, or did the potato make me do it?” Pollan explores this concept further as he tells a magnificent story of our natural human desires that connect us to plants, as well as a story about the plants themselves. Pollan focuses on the story of co-evolution between humans and 4 familiar plants; apples, tulips, cannabis, and potatoes. He goes through a number of concepts, writing them in such a way that its easy to understand and relate to. He explains the desires that connect us to these plants, the  sweetness of the apple, beauty in the tulip’s, intoxication in cannabis, and control in the story of the potato. This book really got my attention and I hope it will be a valuable and enjoyable read to you as well.

 

I found Jared Diamonds’ book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, to be very enjoyable. Jareds writing style seems to be very in depth and factual, sometimes less engaging than Michaels, probably due to less of a personal connection. But overall, what I’ve read so far has made me gain a lot of knowledge about natural selection, and the evolution of wild plants to crop plants. One concept I enjoyed from Jared was on page 116, “When strawberry seeds are still young and not yet ready to be planted, the surrounding fruit is green, sour, and hard. When the seeds finally mature, the berries turn red, sweet, and tender. The change in the berries’ colour serves as a signal attracting birds….strawberries evolved through natural selection. The greener or more sour the young strawberry, the fewer the birds that destroyed the seeds by eating berries before the seeds were ready; the sweeter and redder the strawberry the more numerous the birds that dispersed its ripe seeds.” I like how Diamond made this concept easy to relate to, and chose strawberries, probably because a lot of people have a memory of picking fresh strawberries as a child. This was a good reminder that us along with other animals, share a connection with plants, as we pick the biggest, sweetest berry.

The Triumph of Seeds

Hanson, T. 2015. The Triumph of Seeds. New York: Basic Books. p xiii-18; p55-80.

 

The Triumph of Seeds, by Thor Hanson, is an eye-opening and scientific novel that I would suggest to all my fellow botany enthusiasts. So far I’ve completed the introduction, chapter one, four and five. I find this book very impressive as it is factual but remains captivating. Hanson shares his personal story about how seeds play a role in his life and how he was inspired by his toddlers enthusiasm for seeds. The author explains the huge importance of seeds throughout history and the powerful influence they hold on the world today.

Hanson began his story by taking us through the avocado germination process he is undergoing in his Raccoon Shack. I was chatting with my classmate who is also reading this book and we were both inspired to start growing an avocado ourselves. He also starts growing peas as an experiment, inspired from an evolutionary scientist, Mendel. Hanson shares the story of Mendel, who made great evolutionary discoveries but was never acknowledged for his work during his lifetime.

I really enjoyed Hansons writing style. He acknowledged a connection between human and seeds that I never knew existed until I read this book. He included thought provoking facts like on page xxii, “Homo sapiens may have never evolved in a world that lacked seeds.” This made me think about how often seeds come up in my daily routine. Honestly, mostly through food! Reading this book made me appreciate all that plants provide for us everyday, through food, clothes, paper, and so much more.

I also really enjoyed how Hanson made scientific processes easy to understand. For example on page 68, “A towel is just the beginning… People can cover up their nakedness with whatever they want: shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, cocktail dress, or even a suit of armour.” After reading this I found myself asking, why all this variety in clothing? In the statement above, Hanson provides us with a comparison of the naked human body and a evolving gymnosperm seed. The evolution of gymnosperm to angiosperm was a long process but it allowed time for great changes to arise. Angiosperms developed structures that would appeal to pollinators just as a cocktail dress appeal to humans. A seed may want to wear a suit of armour to wait until the growing conditions are right. Each angiosperm developed structures based on their individual needs, thus, a variety of beautiful and diverse structures were evolving.

The 100-Mile Diet

The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, is an inspiring story about the adventures of a Vancouver couple, while they dedicate themselves to local food for an entire year. All of their food sources must be produced within 100-miles of their home. They begin their 100-mile diet in March and end in February, writing one chapter for each month. Throughout the first 6 chapters of the book, Alisa and James share all their satisfying and trying moments of shopping locally.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed that Alisa included a lot of personal connections in her writing. She used her senses to captivate her readers with the feeling, smell, and the appearance of her surroundings. It seems like she takes joy in becoming connected with the seasons more and more throughout the year. I also like how she acknowledges her personal growth throughout the seasons. At the beginning of the book, Alisa was not enjoying her “shrinking butt” and constantly eating potatoes in every shape and form. She complained about her cravings for foods we take for granted, like sandwiches and salads. But by late spring, Alisa was embracing the season and producing all the fresh veggies she desired in her own garden. As a horticulturist, this is my favourite and most gratifying way to eat locally and become more connected with the seasons.

 

So far, the first half of this book has a nice balance of facts, personal connections, and experiences. It’s motivating to begin each chapter with a healthy, simple, and inexpensive recipe. The wealth of information this novel has provided me, has inspired me to gain more knowledge about where my food travels and explore the ways I can support local food productions. This is a captivating and eye-opening novel that I would suggest to anyone.