Like the rest of the gardening blogosphere, I plan to watch The Botany of Desire tonight. (Well, maybe tomorrow on the DVR.) I expect that the video-version of Pollan’s 2001 best seller will make the same central point: We aren’t necessarily using plants so much as they are using us.
But what I want to know is, was Pollan influenced by Budiansky’s work from a decade earlier?
In 1992, I was editorial director of Rodale’s magazine for organic and sustainable farmers, The New Farm. (It’s now a website.) We covered livestock issues — a lot. And the whole editorial team at the time was so impressed with Budiansky’s book, The Covenant of the Wild: Why Animals Chose Domestication that we decided to excerpt a portion of it in our back-of-the-mag guest column. He wrote, in part:
There is now a mounting body of evidence that the original domestication of animals was not so much and invention, imposed by humans on animals against their will, as it was a natural process of evolution in which both man and beast adapted to one another for mutual gain. In an evolutionary sense, domesticated animals chose us as much as we chose them.
Don’t get me wrong. I really liked The Botany of Desire. I just felt like I’d read it before in Budiansky’s book. Here’ more:
One might wonder whether the advantages of extra food and protection from other predators would outweigh the disadvantage of being preyed on by humans. From an evolutionary point of view, the answer is undeniable: A handful of minor species emerged from scraping together a marginal living at the end of the Ice Age to occupy a position of overwhelming dominance in the biosphere. While wild sheep teeter on the edge of extinction, the population of domestic sheep has grown to 1 billion. …
To suggest that domestication is an evolutionary phenomenon rather than a human invention is not to claim that humans were mere pawns in some grand preordained plan. Human choice and ingenuity clearly played a part — but only a part, insufficient in itself. In dealing with the biological world, humans may select, but only from a set of options determined by nature.
While they might not be as compelling as Pollan’s apples, tulips, potatoes and cannabis, cows and chickens and sheep and pigs have cast their lot in the same game.
… to the Norway maple that’s just outside our backdoor. Tomorrow it will will come down. And we’ll have a pile of wood chips, some fire wood to barter, and some good chunks for my friend and wood sculptor, Marc Freedman to turn into bowls and trays and free-form pieces.
I’m a little ambivalent, but ready. The biggest drawback is this tree is our house’s air conditioner, blocking the sun on the south side of the house. But there are major limbs that could come down on the house with the next ice storm. It wasn’t pruned to a single trunk early in it’s life and has multiple trunks veering off in all directions. The roots blocked the pipe leading to the septic tank soon after we moved in, requiring a major repair. And Norway maples are among the worst weeds in my flower beds. On top of that, this is about the best fall color shot I’ve got from this tree:
Some more fall color from the ridge this weekend:
If I had a courtyard, this is how I’d want it to be painted.
I stumbled out the door this morning with the dogs to find an inch or so of wet snow on the ground. Then we lost power from 6 to 7:15 a.m. Fortunately it got light enough to shoot some pix before we got lights, water and heat back.
The usual scenes for the time-lapse stack…