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Natural Earth Policy - Food Science Part 1

Updated on August 27, 2016

Even the Best Methods Are Not a Panacea

The sun is the greatest producer of life according to the total biomass of the planet earth. Primary consumers of the sun’s energy convert that radiant energy into more elaborate substances and support a variety of life that only pales in comparison to themselves. Flowering plants have a tremendous amount of diversity and together they are the physical representation of vast stores of energy. Homo sapiens is not that different from all of the animals on the planet that partake of the nutrients of the sun in a dazzling food web. People are now also responsible for creating artificial food webs but as we are finding out, we may not be able to consider ourselves as prolific producers as our Animal Kingdom counterparts.

The advancements in agriculture that have resulted in Genetically Modified Organisms to increase production are at odds with our understanding of the overall health as it relates to the diversity of species. Early forays into the field of ecology led to the manufacture of insecticides that put arthropods, the true producers, in danger. Efforts to understand the complex dynamics of our environment have been frustrating but mankind's poor record of accomplishment with other species is not even isolated, I’m afraid. Human beings are often a danger to themselves, especially when conflicts arise over resources. Homo sapiens are one continuous species as proven by the recent conclusion of the Human Genome Project and we have to find a way to live with one another.

Acceptable forms of protest were debatable since before the birth of Henry David Thoreau on July 12, 1817 but his paper entitled Civil Disobedience is still compelling. Thoreau was a Harvard educated philosopher, historian, and naturalist that devoted a considerable amount of time to scientific thought. Thoreau’s advice to a fledgling republic calling itself the United States would echo the transcendentalist belief on self-reliance and he called for the individual to respond to injustice. While we are mindful of the fact that actions have consequences we would also do well to remember that remedies should improve conditions and science can be an excellent tool of discovery if used properly.

Everybody Has to Eat

People often overlook the science behind the food we eat. The science can remain hidden among the throngs of distractions bombarding all of our senses, including taste. Homo sapiens are forced to obtain nutrients from elaborate matter as a function of vitality and during the American Thanksgiving holiday season we are reminded to empathize with one another in that struggle. Agriculture is the oldest professional scientist employment that we have ever been engaged in. The cornucopia of foods that civilization has bestowed upon mankind are still based on biological complexes that people rarely devote enough thought to.

Fundamental concepts from the evolution and co-evolution of species are still central points during the most recent conversations about genetically modified organisms. Biology, chemistry, and statistics advancements have created a glut of information that is a characteristic of our current age but we appear to be loath to apply it. Part of the reason is that we are overwhelmed by the bleak data that nature is providing us with and perhaps another reason is that there are so many fields of science that offer clues to larger issues regarding our planet. While some wonder if we are sustainable the luckiest of us may never pay close attention to warning signs due to privilege, or worse, they are profiting from destruction.

By study we may be coming towards the limit of new understandings. The entire ecosystem including all of its biodiversity are in the balance, and it is becoming more and more clear that in order to maintain our health we need to keep it that way. Life in all variations and iterations have a role in maintaining our precious earth. All of the species are the reason for this grand transformation of matter in the most intricate food web that we are unable to even fathom.

Without further ado, I present to you a beginners guide to the policies surrounding our sustenance.

Focus Word

Marginalized - treated as insignificant or on the peripheral, relegated to an unimportant status.

Look at the word bank on the bottom of the page for more definitions!

Classic American Depictions

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe
"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe | Source

Conflicts about Thanksgiving

The American tradition of Thanksgiving is changing as are the depictions of Native Americans that initiated the popular holiday. A worldwide recognizable sporting brand famously agreed to sponsor name changes for offensive sporting team mascots and there has been pressure to re-frame some of the lore surrounding actual events.

Two scientific facts are presented in a modern interpretation of historical events.

  1. Previous European settlers found North America to be inhospitable and usually did not survive, and certainly did not thrive.
  2. Native Americans shared their unique knowledge of North American agriculture with Europeans, thus ensuring the Europeans’ survival in the Americas.

Most of the recent controversies are the results of changing attitudes of current American citizens about the competition for resources and previous cultural conflicts. North America proved to be a vast expanse with bountiful agricultural possibilities but it could have just as well been lost if not for Native American generosity. Acknowledging the Native American contribution is perhaps the beginning of the understanding we could all gain from a large food producer that also reaches beyond empty rhetoric or lip service. The human element tries to discuss modern culture clashes further by asking even more questions.

  • What did the survival of European settlers ultimately mean for the Native American?
  • Does this information effect the human ability to share food and resources?
  • Do human beings have a tendency to punish charity?

I wish my countrymen to consider, that whatever the human law may be, neither an individual nor a nation can ever commit the least act of injustice against the obscurest individual, without having to pay the penalty for it. A government which deliberately enacts injustice, and persists in it, will at length ever become the laughing-stock of the world.

— Henry David Thoreau

Current Best Sellers Addressing Cultural Conflict

Food Webs Create Big Data

Figure 2. The complete International Agro-Food Trade Network in 1998.
Figure 2. The complete International Agro-Food Trade Network in 1998. | Source

Favorite Thanksgiving Food

What is your all time favorite food to eat during Thanksgiving?

See results

Tough Turkey

  • Click on the following link that takes you to The Franklin Institute frequently asked questions page.
  • Search for the keyword “turkey.”
  • Read the rather scientific comparison of two birds left by one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.

Embracing A New, Old World

America – A Nation of One People from Many Countries The Council Against Intolerance in America: 1940 Annotated by Langston Hughes.
America – A Nation of One People from Many Countries The Council Against Intolerance in America: 1940 Annotated by Langston Hughes. | Source

Poetry of the Oppressed

Langston Hughes was an African-American known as the Harlem Renaissance poet laureate, and for penning the line "What Happens to a Dream Deferred?"

The spirit of the poet is preserved in the map above which can be seen in full view here at the Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book Manuscript Library, providing a rare voice to marginalized agricultural workers referred to as sharecroppers.

Sharecropping is the dubious practice by which farmers worked seasonally as tenants presumably to secure a share of the crops they were farming and eventual ownership of land they were currently making use of. Unfortunately the practice was severely impaired in the United States due to antiquated social hierarchies, high bankruptcy rates, unscrupulous landlords and the unpredictability of production.

What happens to a dream deferred?

— Langston Hughes

Food Desert: Bound By Highways, South Central LA

Ron Finley: A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central Los Angeles

More Scientific Information

A grafting manual published by Colorado State University at Boulder called the Propagation of Plants by Grafting and Budding is readily downloadable on the internet.

In the paper success rates of grafting are discussed, along with proper tools, and best practices. Common and botanical names are provided and there is even a chart that illustrates the best time of year to complete each type of graft.

See if you can find this free and downloadable Pacific Northwest Extension Publication, PNW496 by G.N.M. Kumar, or something similar, on your own!

Fruit Gangsters & Guerrilla Grafters

Until recently some government municipalities in the United States of America had laws and ordinances that obstructed the growing of food on vacant public lands. The marginalization of an increasing number of financially poorer citizens has led to civil disobedience to correct this unjust policy that can ultimately result in hunger. Fruit gangsters and guerrilla grafters used surreptitious, subversive, and scientific tactics in order to draw attention to their issues while at the same time adding to the solutions of several mounting problems. Human populations are facing famine at an alarming rate and the use of land to grow food is seen by most as an essential right to survival.

The shoots or scions of fruit bearing trees are grafted onto existing non-bearing trees through a form of asexual reproduction as each descendant is identical to the progenitor. If the horticultural operations are successful the resultant tree has the possibility of bearing edible fruit and can participate in sexual reproduction resulting in the increased diversification, or variation, of species within the span of a few years.

Although their language is sometimes strong these important activists are giving a constructive voice to peoples that have been frustrated by arguing over their right to exist. Fortunately politicians ultimately responded prudently and predictably in order to avoid further escalation.

Offering healthy organic food alternatives in favor of processed foods or those reliant on emerging technologies is also a sound approach towards sustainability. Even long term health benefits of populations can be influenced positively by a healthier diet which also has a significant economic impact on medicine. The far reaching benefits of horticulture promotion in urban areas are realized immediately as youth learn the lessons associated with production instead of destruction. By reclaiming ownership of public spaces people from all walks of life have shown an ability to gain a greater connection to the environment. Ironically humans have found that economic issues can draw both the staunch detractor and unlikely advocate, alike, into conservation of species issues more easily.

The minor miracle of this particular example is that even the traditionally unlearned are managing to understand and engage the tools of the uppermost levels of science and achieving sustainable and desired results.

Guerrilla Grafting Manual

Undoing civilization one branch at a time
Undoing civilization one branch at a time | Source

Ripped Recent Headlines: Save the Bees!

Of course, the issue of the moment centers about small arthropods and their seemingly endless ability to pollinate our food sources free of charge. Today, scientists can say with relative certainty that we are certainly challenging this long-standing belief in areas even if we are not totally outpacing them on a global scale. This paper concentrates on the European continent and the pollination services provided by bees.

Read the Introduction of the following scientific paper:

Article Source: Agricultural Policies Exacerbate Honeybee Pollination Service Supply-Demand Mismatches Across Europe

Breeze TD, Vaissière BE, Bommarco R, Petanidou T, Seraphides N, et al. (2014) Agricultural Policies Exacerbate Honeybee Pollination Service Supply-Demand Mismatches Across Europe. PLoS ONE 9(1): e82996. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082996

  1. What is affecting the ability of the honeybees to provide pollination services?
  2. Does this scientific study suggest that increased production of biofuels helps or hurts the honeybees?

Sir David Attenborough of the BBC

The High Specificity Scenarios

The Private Life of Plants, one of the cardinal documentaries on the subject of botany, was published by the BBC and narrated by David Attenborough. The entire collection of videos exists on the Internet Archive for scholarly use and are a fantastic introduction into the world of pollinators and the concept of evolving species specificity. The third installment, Flowers, should be required viewing for budding natural scientists.

  • Mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects are all known pollinators of flowering plants presumably for an expectation of some type of reward.
  • Over time the reproductive structures of plants evolved with extraordinary specificity.
  • The increased variation of plants caused by sexual reproduction positively impacts plant species and their ability to adapt to their environments.

The Producers Quiz

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Bee in Ibiza

Honeybees on the island of Ibiza in Spain have the genetic expression of being darker in color and having iridescent shading.
Honeybees on the island of Ibiza in Spain have the genetic expression of being darker in color and having iridescent shading. | Source

Key Word Bank

Agriculture – the science of farming including cultivation of the soil for growing crops, and raising animals to provide food and other products.

Asexual reproduction – without sex, some cloned individual organisms can clone themselves or in the case of plants, be cloned.

Biodiversity – all life, in every variation and form.

Descendant – offspring of another living progenitor.

Food Web – a food web is a graphic description of the flow of energy and nutrients through an ecosystem.

Food Chain – a linear path through a food web.

Food Desert – an artificially circumscribed area in which it is difficult to buy affordable and nutritious food.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) – any living organism that has been manipulated at the genetic level in order to predict gene expression, or traits.

Internet Archive – a free web-based, open source, depository of multimedia. A virtual library.

Panacea – mythical and miraculous cure or remedy for everything

Producer – the organisms engaged in the production of organic compounds or biomass.

Progenitor – an ancestor or parent.

Scions – a young shoot or twig of a plant. 2). A descendant of a notable family.

Sexual reproduction – a combination or two or more organisms to produce a genetically variable organism.

Shoots – small branches or twigs of a plant.

Sustainable – the capacity to endure through harnessing diversity as a means to produce indefinitely.

Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo is a large bird native to the Americas and a popular meal there during Thanksgiving.

Variation – a different or distinct version of something.

© 2015 Daniel Cooper


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