Perspective

Diamond, J. 1999. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. p.114-130

Pollan, M. 2002. The Botany of Desire. New York: The Random House Trade Paperbacks. p.xiii-xxv

In these 2 separates books, authors, Diamond and Pollan, exhibit 2 distinct styles of writing whilst sharing striking theme similarities.  Pollan conveys in a story-like, 1st person manner, the relationship with humans and seeds.  He explains in his introduction his intention to focus on human desire and what effect this beholds for both humans and plants.  Diamond, writes a 3rd person narrative, emphasizing similarly on the human relationship with seeds but through a scientific and historic perspective.  A reoccurring relationship in both passages is that of domestication and selection.

Plant domestication. When my eyes first glazed over the concept, I hardly thought anything of it. As Pollan furthermore continued on with the domestication subject comparing dogs and wolves, I stopped anew. Plant domestication. I had never considered plants to be a domesticated species such as our beloved cats, dogs and other little creatures are. Yet, this was a blatantly true statement.  I had definitely never considered this from the plants perspective as both authors allude to.  Though us humans are reaping many benefits of this coexistence with plants, the plants ability to survive and reproduce is undoubtedly thriving.  As Pollan titles, we are “the human bumblebee” (p.xiii).  So nor is it really adequate, nor accurate to consider our relationship as one-species-dominant-over-another.  This is plant and human mutualism.  This concept highlights a main theme occurring in both exerts:  perspective.  Pollan explains “we divide the world into subjects and objects” (p.xiv), and we consider ourselves the subjects having a “relationship to nature”(p.xxv).  To.  There is an explicit distinction that we as humans do not consider ourselves as part of nature; we “stand outside”(p.xxv).  This significant distinction is perhaps why we see many various environmental issues that range from a simple disregard, or under appreciation for seeds, to mass habitat destruction and fragmentation, air pollution or other greater issues.

Pollan claims “plants are nature’s alchemists” (p.xix).  This claim and its entire proceeding paragraph  explains the diverse toolbox that plant’s possess; this complex nature is truly astounding.  It transitions smoothly into a second thematic aspect both authors succeed in emphasizing: selection.  Plants have been selecting and gradually evolving their toolbox to suit their best environment.  This is a concept interconnecting to domestication.  If it was to a plant’s advantage to entice human desires, then this is how the plant would select its traits.  Furthermore, Diamond comments upon human’s close involvement with selection as “modern botany”(p.130).  This modern botany accounting for the mega-size juicy supermarket strawberries in contrast to the small, sweet wild strawberries.  Modern botany established a new world of agriculture.  Human selection of traits began to cross an organisms set bounds and deviate to greater alterations incomparable in nature.  Modern botany established an agricultural branch often under harsh skepticism: genetically modified organism(s) (GMOs).  GMOs may possess DNA crossovers between organism.

One of the most interesting concepts brought about by Diamond and Pollan (and Lyn) is the interconnection between domestication and selection.  Such an important aspect to consider for this relationship is perspective.  Humans struggle to see themselves or even consider themselves object to another species.  So how do we alter perspective?  When can we begin to reciprocate our own thought value onto plants?

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