• In total there are 0 users online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 0 guests (based on users active over the past 60 minutes)
    Most users ever online was 616 on Thu Jan 18, 2024 7:47 pm

Ch. 2 - The farm

#31: Oct. - Dec. 2006 (Non-Fiction)
User avatar
Chris OConnor

1A - OWNER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 17008
Joined: Sun May 05, 2002 2:43 pm
21
Location: Florida
Has thanked: 3503 times
Been thanked: 1307 times
Gender:
Contact:
United States of America

Ch. 2 - The farm

Unread post

This thread is for discussing Chapter 2. Edited by: Chris OConnor  at: 10/2/06 12:04 am
MadArchitect

1E - BANNED
The Pope of Literature
Posts: 2553
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2004 4:24 am
19
Location: decentralized

Re: Ch. 2 - The farm

Unread post

On p. 37, Pollan notes that there's very little genuine Darwinian competition between F-1 hybrids -- they're all identical copies of one another, so there are no genetic traits to compete with one another. I wonder what the potential consequences of flattening competition like that might be? One obvious answer is, if these plants can't compete with one another, then they can't develop on their own traits that would help out in case of a change in environmental pressures. They produce decreasing yields with each generation, so they basically only have a few generations in which to mutate new adaptations -- if they can produce future generations at all.Another possible consequence is, if there did happen to be a rogue individual, whatever genetic difference it had from other plants in the crop might give it a huge advantage. I'm thinking here of the hawk and dove scenarios Dawkins used in the middle chapters of "The Selfish Gene". Just as a for instance, if only one plant in a crop could reproduce more without human intervention...Moving on, I don't know that there's anyway around the long-term consequences of our reliance on fossil fuels for soil nitration. The way Pollan presents it, we were on the way to catastrophic food shortages when the Haber-Bosch process was invented. The Haber-Bosch process may have made it possible to sustain millions of lives, but because of it, there are now almost 5 billion more lives to sustain (source: Wikipedia. So what happens when the fossil fuels run out?And on p. 51, Pollan recounts the events that paved the way for the steady revoking of New Deal policies: "In the fall of 1972 Russia, having suffered a series of disastrous harvests, purchased 30 milliion tons of American grain. [Earl]Butz had helped arrange the sale, in the hopes of giving a boost to crop prices in order to bring restive farmers tempted to vote for George McGovern into the Republican fold." The plan worked, Nixon was re-elected, and the bottom was quickly knocked out of the New Deal. So my question is, how can we in a democratic society guard against scenarios like this, where one political move reassures us about the very administration most likely to subvert our interests?
User avatar
Loricat
Laughs at Einstein
Posts: 433
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 11:00 am
19

Re: Ch. 2 - The farm

Unread post

Mad, your political question, I think, is a touch idealistic. I don't think these kinds of decisions would ever be transparent, at the time. How much of that motivation is only clear now, decades later? How much do we really know about the background of any decision our governments take? I'm talking about the seemingly day-to-day details of life (I'm leaving WMD et. al. out of this!) -- at the time of that sale to Russia, how much, if anything, did the average citizen know about the state of the country's grain? Russians were in need, USA to the rescue (Look, Citizens, be proud). The actual amount of grain was (and is) an abstraction -- who can get their brain around 30 million of anything? The average citizen I'm sure, trusted the government when it said 'we have enough to send them'. I'm cynical, obviously.On another note...another of Pollan's themes seems to be the double-edged sword of science -- an innovation that seems great, backfiring...and needing the next 'innovation' to correct it (then it backfiring, and so on.) He keeps turning them up, as his story progresses. "All beings are the owners of their deeds, the heirs to their deeds." Loricat's Book NookCelebrating the Absurd
MadArchitect

1E - BANNED
The Pope of Literature
Posts: 2553
Joined: Sun Nov 14, 2004 4:24 am
19
Location: decentralized

Re: Ch. 2 - The farm

Unread post

Re: the "double edged sword of science", it seems to me that Pollan is essentially playing on the theme of, "evolution is more clever than you are." Most of the backfired innovations he cites are instances of us trying to get around certain caps set by the inheritence of our evolutionary legacy. What it amounts to, I'd say, is that evolution can, by abstracting it a little, be used as a kind of guide to prudence. Is it prudent to make cattle eat a grain they don't eat under normal conditions? We might not know why without experimentation, but the fact that they have apparantly evolved to eat grass rather than corn should indicate to us that it probably isn't prudent.
Post Reply

Return to “The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - by Michael Pollan”