The Omnivore’s Dilemma

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Guns, Germs, And Steel

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The Botany of Desire and Glover et al. 2007

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The Botany of Desire….

Introduction in “The Botany of Desire” By Michael Pollan
Chapter 7 in “Guns, Germs, and Steel” By Jared Diamond

This weeks two readings from Michael Pollan and Jared Diamond were much more enjoyable in my opinion compared to last week’s readings. The two readings were very interesting and brought upon new light of how I would view plants and the relationship between humans as well as other organisms.  The new found relationship that we share with plants that I discovered from reading the passages were not something I had not thought about before but makes sense if one sits down and thinks about how plants are indeed using us rather then us using them!

In our narcissistic way of viewing the world and plants we believe that we are the ones “choosing the plants, pulling the weeds, harvesting the crops” while it is not necessarily the case of what we want to do but rather what plants have evolved into tricking us to do. Even if we do not view the world of plants with a relationship with us we still believe the plant is no the one in control of its surroundings. As even when bees are collecting nectar out of flowers, the bee is being manipulated into hauling the pollen from one flower to another to help pollinate other flowers. Another example is when acorn trees have their acorns taken by squirrels and hidden for winter storage, by chance a squirrel will forget one of its many locations of hidden acorns and eventually that acorn will grow into another tree one day. This coevolution of using animals to “spread their genes.”

As many plants do not have the ability of locomotion, they are unable to escape organisms that prey on them, they are also unable to move if conditions around them become very detrimental to them. With such a disadvantage, plants have developed the use of other animals to carry out their genes to perhaps better locations as well as to spread out the plant to further areas. To do this plants have developed very seductive ways to intice animals to take their seeds and “plant” them somewhere else. With the use of highly tasty fruits, or very beautiful looking flowers, plants are able to invite animals without them knowing their true intention to spread their genes and help continue the survival of plants. With the use of fruits, the animals consume the fruit except for the seed which may be spat out or defecated out (the seed has a protective coating that does not allow it to be digested) into a new location with the waste of the animal that can also be used as a fertilizer. However with the use of flowers pollen is transferred from flower to flower in hopes of being pollinated by insects such as bees that are attracted to the flower and nectar is holds.

Plants….. more then meets the eye.

Plant domestication is another topic discussed in the readings, again in our eyes we see it as whatever is most useful to human consumers. There are many examples of how we have taken things such as almonds which contain high levels of toxin that are otherwise unable advisable to consume into a harmless snack for us. However, the process of turning wild fruits into the fruits that we know today required many various techniques and time to develop in order for us to have such an abundancy of fruits that we have today.

The fruits in the wild that we see are in contrast much smaller then the ones we can find in super markets, this is due to the the fact that humans intentionally take larger fruits and with those fruits they will plant the seeds in hopes of large fruit that came from the fruit that bore the seed. As this process of selecting the best fruits came about, we eventually developed seedless grapes, bananas and other fruits due to mutations that we found useful to us.

Wild strawberries. Much smaller in comparison to the ones we see in supermarkets these days.

The readings provide a different look on how the relationship between humans and plants are actually. We may think that we are in control of this relationship but it is the plant who has seduced us into doing its biding.
As hopeless as being the slave of the plant is, we do hold some sort of control in this relationship as we are able to control who our plant mates with and what the offspring will be like. With this control we have been able to through hard work to produce an abundance of fruits that we consume that may not have otherwise been possible!

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In Praise of Plants.. Yes.. but not so much the book -_-

In Priase of Plants By Francis Halle, P.41-124; P.173-184

Wow… is all I can about this book. It’s taken me almost 2 weeks to finally finish the assigned reading (I know its very late) but I could not for the life of me keep myself awake when reading it. The book in my opinion stays on one topic for much too long, where it reiterates the same topic or concept or idea over and over and over again till it is engraved into your mind.
Though the book in my opinion is a real bore to read, it does have some very good points in it if you’re able to keep alert and catch what the author is trying to convey. It is almost like a diamond in rough, where most of the content of the book is the rough and the key points and opinions of author are the diamond waiting to be discovered!

Examples of Francis Halle’s use of words to bore me to death was actually found throughout the entire assigned reading. A more exact example would be his discussion on the short introduction of capturing energy where the author could easily have said that energy is required for an organism to live, yet Francis does not seem to think such a simple sentence will get his point across. Rather he gives 5 more examples of how important that energy is crucial in the survival of an organism which in my opinion is quite obvious.

“The engine stops without fuel, running again when it is supplied. Without energy, an organism is condemned to death after only a brief delay, as if a car engine destroyed itself several hours after running out of fuel. “The organism cannot be dissociated from the energy that feeds it” (Passet 1979). An organism needs energy not simply for functioning but for existing. Whether plant or animal, capturing energy is imperative.”

I understand that the point he is trying to convey is very important but by using repetition on such a simple concept with excessive examples it bores the reader greatly in my opinion and leaves the reader bombarded with too many things to think about on a simple subject.

Another example of Francis Halle’s use of words and examples that easily put me off from this book was from his discussion of “Potentially Immortal Beings”. Where I would normally think of as a very interesting topic due to its controversy in some situations and also how big of an impact immortality could be if it could be applied to organisms such as humans. But again Francis Halle makes his discussion very convoluted by discussing the long lives of some organisms such as corals, trees, and giant tortoises. As the examples are talked about in more detail I find it more and more difficult to pinpoint his actual point in referring to immortality of these organisms and get lost within his examples and text.

Though I found this book very difficult to follow I did find a few points that I greatly agreed with and was able to follow with great confidence. On page 174, the topic of evolution and how the mechanism for plants works intrigued me greatly with points that caught my attention.

” Mute as they are, recessive alleles do not contribute less to the enrichment of the genome; they are the material on which evolution works.”

This statement, especially the ending caught my attention so much that I even underlined it. I believe this statement caught my attention because of how something such as a recessive allele which may not seem to play as an important role as the dominant allele can actually be the determining factor in how evolution plays out. Dominant alleles always get the spotlight when it comes to phenotypes that are expressed but without recessive alleles we would not have different characters that are expressed and the abundance of variation in organism’s characters! Recessive alleles can be hidden away throughout many generations till two recessive alleles are able to produce an offspring expressing the recessive trait which may or may not affect a whole generation under certain circumstances.

This book has a been a tough journey for me to read and overcome due to the the tough passages to read and comprehend, but even under all those tough passages there were places of brilliance where I greatly enjoyed taking in the author’s knowledge of the subject and opinion. These passages might be quite rare but I do believe this book contains a great deal of knowledge if one is able to sieve through lots of text.

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