The domestication of plant

Michael Pollan, 2002,  page xiii – xx5 in The Botany of Desire. Random House Trade Paper Back Edition,US

Jared Diamond, 1997, Chapter 7: How To Make an Almond in Guns, Germ and Steel: the Fates of Human Society. W. W. Norton & Company, US.

These two chapters from different books, but illustrate the same content : plant domestication. Michael Pollan’s introduction is not just intentionally tell us about the  artificial selection of plant, it also redefine the meaning  of “nature”, what’s it  actually mean to be “in here” and “out there”. Meanwhile, Jared Diamond focuses  on different way that seed get transported to places, main characteristic that human favor in seed and what is the reason behind the variety in the domestication period of different seed and changes that farmers applied on the plants.

Even though the authors  portray the same topic, and Jared Diamond’s story seemed to be more detailed and provide more information,  I still prefer Micheal Pollan’s writing style, as it has the humorous in it. And if this is a way that Micheal attracts the reader to the story (after all, ít’s the introduction of his book), then I’m sure he succeeded in doing that.. For example, to describe the trait of the plant, Micheal wrote: in page xv.  “I can remember the exact moment that spud seduced me, showing off its knobby charms in the pages of seed catalog”, and the way he compares ourselves to the working bees  at the end of the chapter: “as one of the newer bees in Darwin’s garden = ingenious, sometimes reckless, and remarkably unself- conscious”.

To explain the meaning of domestication, Jared  have provided some significant information in page 116. “genetic modification of an ancestral plant in ways that make it more useful to consumers” (e.g strawberries are adapted to bird). Moreover, the guy also compares different places that we get to sow the seed to “research laboratory seeds”. And throughout centuries, we have some unconscious criteria on picking seed: size, bitterness, fleshy, seedless, oily seeds and long fiber. Among that, seedlessness is considered to be a good example of how human selection can complete reverse the original evolved function of a wild fruit, which in nature serves as a vehicle for dispersing seeds.

To describe the relationship between human and the plants, the authors have different way to describe it. In “The Botany of Desire”, Michael call the relationship as the partners in a coevolutionary relationship. He also praise the plant for its clever strategy, “get the human to move and think for them”. We develop and try out several way to help spread out the plants to various place, promote solution that help seed to germinate under any condition. For ” Guns, Germs, and Steel”, Jared potray it base on the human point of view, as he call the domestication as a growing plant process.

Micheal criticize people as we- the human leave nature, and see it as something out of our life and exist only in some place far away (e.g the wood). This is what i really agree with. People nowadays tend to create the large gap between us and the nature, and we conclude that the so-called nature object only appear in the wild when actually, it’s everywhere around us. And as the author state in the book that if we can understand this “we’ll have traveled a considerable distance toward understanding our place in the world in the fullness of its completxity and ambiguity”


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