corn’s scheme for world domination

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, "Playing God in the Garden" (which I used to give to my first year writing students when I was at Rutgers and now give to my Engineering writing students here at Rowan), and others, talking about the ecological implications and benefits of considering nature from the point of view of the animals or plants being observed.

Particularly insightful about Pollen’s discussion is his observation that despite our acceptance of Darwinian evolution, when considering our relationship with nature,we are still Cartesians: it is either nature or us, not both together. Ironically, if we consider our relationship with corn from the corn’s point of view, our Cartesian approach to planting more and more corn (to fuel our cars and sweeten our beverages) benefits the corn more than any one of us: the more corn there is, the better it is for the corn (which, naturally, is in competition with other grasses and trees and humans for space).

His discussion of the important role of feces in symbiotic farming for the generation of excellent soil is illuminating when taken next to Frederick Kaufman’s discussion of the re-egineering of human waste in "Wasteland: A journey through the American cloaca" (subscription required) from the February 2008 issue of Harper’s. Kaufman goes to places where one never wants to bring their nose to show just how far removed we have positioned ourselves from our waste (and how large corporations are making billions off of it). The two—Pollan and Kaufman—present compelling arguments for taking a more ecological perspective to our observations of and work with nature.

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