Pollan, M. 2002. The botany of desire: A plant’s-eye view of the world. Random House. New York, NY. pp. xiii-xxv.

Diamond, J. 1999. Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. Norton. New York, NY. pp. 113-130.

Following the suggestion raised in class, I shall bring you into my evening through a descriptive narrative of my current situation:

I sit here on the couch in my dark living room at over an hour past a semi-decent bedtime. I’m balancing my laptop on my aching legs, weary from an 11-hour day trudging around the slushy campus. I’m eating SweeTarts, by the way, and I can feel the cavities forming. And I also sit here not quite alone, but with a newly-formed, very sore, throbbing red lump on my lower eyelid. It hurts. A lot. Every time I blink. A stye, perhaps? I don’t know because I haven’t even had the time to Google my symptoms just yet (writing this blog post won’t be the only thing cutting into my sleep time tonight!) But strangely enough, I have actually been able to (somewhat) ignore the pain and discomfort for the past hour or so, not only because I have to hold it together in order to get my homework done, but also because I am now seriously preoccupied with the total trip of the hypothesis that plants could be (are?) exhibiting forms of artificial selection upon US.

Okay, I hope I’ve set the scene adequately. I do feel better after a little whining… Okay, I’ll start.

Both of the assigned readings are on the same general topic: the details regarding natural and artificial selection in plants, with a lot more focus on the latter. While the two readings share content, the two pieces display that content in entirely opposite tones. Pollan’s writing is in first-person, is very descriptive, and really quite beautiful, while Diamond’s chapter reads sort of like a textbook. But a really fun and interesting textbook that I would actually want to read, if that makes sense? It even included a table! Diamond’s chapter was a nonstop rapid-fire of facts, though still conveyed in a logical, cohesive order. This contrasts nicely with Pollan’s poetic question-raising style.

These two readings are completely connected. They both emphasize the deep-rooted significance (pun intended) of the domestication of plants by our ancestors. I enjoyed Diamond’s chapter because it compressed a ton of facts into a relatively compact piece of writing (from seeds germinating in feces to exploding pea pods to native plants!). More than this, though, I feel my understanding of the ancientness (wow, spell-check says that is a word!) of the plants-people relationship is much deeper after this reading. Pollan’s piece also emphasizes our deep connection with what grows from the earth, stating that humans and plants are participants in the phenomena of “coevolution,” that we are, as humans and plants, driving the evolution of each other.

It is now exactly two hours past my bedtime so this will have to do! I am (perpetually) disappointed in my time management skills because I really would have liked to spend more time discussing my favourite readings that we have done so far. Yes, I know I have said this in the closing paragraph of my two previous blog posts on the last two readings (and I’ve meant it each time!), BUT I am quite pumped to read the rest of The Botany of Desire. Pollan’s writing is my personal favourite so far!




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