The Domestication and Use of Plants and Animals
As human beings, we tend to take a lofty stance on nature. We assume that we use nature primarily for our sustenance and our benefit. Only seldom we realize that nature might be using just as much if not more. Plants are an important part of nature. Plants have been using us to meet their needs since time immemorial, but we always thought that we were the ones in control. There are four plants used in the investigation, designed to highlight the influence of the domestication of plants and animals and their influence on civilization.
Tulip is a beautiful plant. It capitalizes on our innate aesthetic need and seeks to gratify our desire for beauty. In so doing, it successfully manipulates us (so to speak), into moving it from its far-flung origin in central Asia and dispersing it all over the world. Cannabis gratifies our desire to escape reality. As a result, it manages to propel people into risk behaviors, sacrificing their lives and freedom in order to grow more of it. Unwittingly, we guarantee its existence and empower its evolutionary strategy. Potato blends into our need for control. It capitalizes on the very human need to manipulate the environment in order to feed. Potato envisages itself as one of the most popular staple foods, managing to reach global levels, having originated in a miniscule region in South America. The evolutionary strategy of apple is simple but highly efficient. It realizes that we have an innate propensity for sweetness. Thus, by gratifying this need, it continues to meet the iconic status and global levels, having originated in a remote forest in Kazakhstan.
As much as the botany of desire sheds light and illuminates an important perspective on the evolutionary prowess embedded in these plants, it also gives another perspective, highlighting the historical reality that these plants have helped configure. The reality is that many advances in civilization, and human civilization itself, owe their existence to plants. This essay will pay attention to the aforementioned four plants as evidence that nature does not sit idly in the unfolding existence that is our universe. Its role is unseen yet undeniably felt.
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The Sweetness of Apple
Apple is a very enterprising fruit. Throughout history, it has managed to rise from the ashes, transcending the mediocrity of a remote forest in central Asia into the zenith of its fame. It is literally a part of folklore and its influence is biblical. It had to contend with bouts of a bad reputation. However, its essence has been its redeeming quality: its sweetness.
The Institute of Monell Chemical Senses conducted sweetness tests that exposed our inherent disposition to everything sweet. There is an evolutionary explanation for this. Apparently, in order to survive, anything sweet signified the absence of toxins or poisons. Sweet things also have sugar and sugar translates to calories. Our brain or our inherent humandisposition gravitate us to sweet things. Apple (almost eerily consciously) adapted to this, to instigate its migration away from the forest. There is an almost infinite account of apple varieties in the world. Among them there are apples that are bitter and even sour.
Even these seemingly unwanted apples had their use. Their use was so popularthat it propelled apple to stardom, spurned entire industries, employment opportunities, and the eventual bad reputation of apple. An example is the legend of a man known as Johnny Appleseed who managed to make a living by selling seedlings to settlers, required by law to plant a fruit tree. Regardless of the fact that he lived like a homeless person, history portrays him as a man, who chose to live like a poor person and not because he was actually poor.
However, apple left its mark in the history of civilization in a completely new way (away from sweetness). The settlers used sour and bitter varieties of apples to make cider. It was the single most popular alcoholic drink at the time, imbibed by the entire spectrum of the social class, from presidents to servants. The prolific nature of cider found itself vastly aided by the phobic relationship that people had with water in colonial America.
Water was rife with diseases. Cider (thanks to the process of fermentation) had managed to eliminate these pathogens. Cider was not only alcoholic, hence addictive, it was considered as a working substitute for water. Long time ago, there was a rapidly developing drinking culture. Saloons opened up to make a fortune on the cider franchise, but cider and apples, used to make it, soon became the victims of their own success. Together with less popular alcoholic beverages, they were viewed as affronts to the society and a penultimate threat to civilization.
The sweetness of apple (the reason it became popular in the first place) became its redeeming feature one more time. At the time, to accrue wealth, one had to find the sweet variety. In the 20th century, the Americans viewed apple as a wholesome nutritious fruit.
The monoculture, in which apples were grown, left themvulnerable to attacksby pests and other pathogens. Because of these problems, new frontiers in research and science emerged to combat these attacks. Unwittingly, these led to the development of the discipline of science and research and consequently added a little bit of value to civilization as a whole.
Another plant,which had asignificant influence on civilization, is beautiful tulip. It traversed the road to fame in an almost astonishing fashion, playing a crucial role in the horticulture industry. In Netherlands, families earn their living because of the existence of the flower. However, the history of tulip spans centuries. Tulips`bewitching beauty hadan effect on the most powerful and wealthy individuals. It seems absurd to think that a single plant could have such an effect, an effect that led to an obscene extravagance that partly causedSultan to lose his empire. There were a loss of fortune, an obsession that gripped an entire region and the eventual economic cataclysm that it instigated.
Tulip not only had its influence on the economic landscape, it soaked into the cultural fabric as well. History outlines the interesting occurrence of a tulip festival, whenever the flower was in bloom. Sultan`s reckless spending on tulips helped to topple him from his throne. However, civilization had to contend with the tulip mania. Between 1634 and 1637an entire country went mad for tulips, spurring a frenzy that generated an unprecedented investment bubble in history. The plant was in the pantheon full of invaluable commodities such as gold, only it was more valuable.
At the time the Dutch became rich through their dominance in the world trade. Consequently, the Dutch did not have a money-related problem. Some would say the problem was how to spend it. The tulip became a lifestyle, a symbol of wealth. The plant basked in its glory, flourishing in an evolutionary perspective. However, its steam waned because of the tulip bubble burst. The flower was extremely overvalued and was sold at very high prices. The tulip mania ended and the tulip hatred began.
Society vilified tulip, blaming it for the economic disaster. However, interestingly the flower manipulated the world into paying exorbitant amounts of money for what were essentially damaged goods. Some of the most beautiful tulips were created due to a virus. Regardless, tulip made a significant impact on the civilization.
To date, there are individuals making a living using the beauty of tulip. The horticulture industry and the sale of flowers throughout the world would be nothing without tulips. Tulips have literally created the tourism industry in the Netherlands too. The Keukenhof gardens in Amsterdam showcase the planets most beautiful tulips. Tourists and aesthetic enthusiasts flock the gardens to see the wonderful display. Further, trade of flowersbrings approximately one billion dollar. In essence, things that are exquisitely useless and will perish in a few days are crucial to the existence and maintenance of civilization.
The next plant is the infamous marijuana, a weed that gripped the society and made humans to not only spread it but also nurture it. This plant has a psychoactive molecule, which gives it a herculean evolutionary advantage. The molecule in laymans terms is known as THC. It manages to cross the blood-brain barrier, consequently morphing an individuals conscious state. It will produce hallucinations and the individual satiates his/her need to clear his/her mind of troubling issues. The plant, unwittingly, attracted people`s interest. While trying to figure out how THC works, scientists stumbled into a previously undiscovered frontier in the workings of the mind.
The THC molecule paved the way into the study of emotions, memory and consciousness. In relation to civilization and the constant improvement of it, we owe a lot to cannabis because we would not have known how these processes work, had it not been due to marijuana.
The plant (due to its psychoactive component) entices human beings to indulge in it. There are many people, who use it for recreational or medical purposes. Therefore, there is a market as a result of the desire to gratify the need to manipulate consciousness and relieve pain. Cannabis is part of a long history of civilization, characterized by the culture of intoxication. Copious amounts of energy had been spent throughout ancient history in the production, distribution and consumption of psychoactive products. Such is the texture of the fabric that is civilization. We like to get high and cannabis (metaphorically speaking) found its niche. Society accepts and sometimes actively endorses the use of intoxicants.
Many cultures throughout history have tolerated the use of marijuana. Since its discovery in India and China millenniums ago, cannabis has been envisaged as more than just an intoxicant. Cannabis was used as a pain reliever. It was incorporated into medical practice as an effective pain reliever. It did not have the same powerful effect as opiates but it had a calming effect and an incredible ability to take the mind off things, even pain. Pain is a significant part of humanity. The ability to deal and alleviate pain was animportant moment in history and made life a bit more tranquil. Cannabis was especially important in the pre-modern times. This was an era characterized by hard labor and the need to relieve pain and obtain tranquility after a hard day at work had immensely increased.
Its medical impact continued to be felt in its use in the alleviation of pain during labor pains, asthma and rheumatism (a bad case of arthritis). Cannabis at the time was a popular over-the-counter drug. It could be bought in any drug store in the country. Thus, it generated employment since it was still legal at the time. Cannabis became famous as a result of the influx of Mexicans into America. In Mexico, the plant was primarily used for recreational purposes and was called marijuana. Mexican immigrants brought their smoking culture with them. Marijuana found acceptance and popularity among the African Americans, seeping into their music and forming an inextricable bond with art.
In the 1960s, marijuana was embraced by an entire generation. It was perfect for the aura and climate of that time. Like the apple situation, uproar led to the fact thatdistribution and consumption of marijuana were considered as a threat to the society and civilization. A reason for this was the fact that millions of young Americans (who are ideally the future of a society) were enslaved by marijuana. Marijuana has the uncanny ability to limit one`s activity and impede work ethics. The government had to react.
The plant found itself swamped by liters of poison aimed at killing the plant in Mexico during 1975-1983. However, these efforts created a mounting concern that some of the marijuana plant somehow managed to find its way to the North would be harmful to the users. As a result, scientific laboratories were trying to test the authenticity and safety of the marijuana plant. In an effort to kill the plant, people created employment opportunities, furthered science and later developed a new frontier for the plant itself.
Domestic marijuana industry appeared and became very lucrative. The west coast became a hub for the plant. The plant was attacked yet again, and yet again it emerged from the ashes. The governments crackdown on the plant, had the consequence of driving the plant indoors. The indoor solution had only one problem: the sheer size of the plant. Therefore, there was a need for a shorter plant. Cannabis Sativa was crossbred with its shorter relative, Cannabis indica. In the end, the plant became a better version of itself. It became a hybrid.
The pioneers of indoor growing produced a strain that was short, fast and more potent. The plant had effectively matured from being a ditch weed into a pampered plant that was spectacular to look at and demanded more attention. Attention it now received in a more intensive habitat, tailored to satisfy the plant`s every whim. The plants could not ask for a better bargain. It is an evolutionary lottery ticket and heaven for the plant. In addition, people, involved in production of cannabis, keep on improving it because of their own lucrative needs. This is the picture of a symbiotic relationship. Due to the relationship of Cannabis with people, it has become different, better and stronger. Consequently, people, in their turn, benefit from marijuana in many ways. A perfect example is a legit marijuana caf? in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam attracts tourism from around the world because of their attitude toward marijuana. Although it is not completely legal, marijuana indulgence is permissible in some marijuana cafes. As a result, Amsterdam benefits from foreign exchange and the country has managed to create employment and business opportunities, thanks to the plant.
Other than that, it is important to mention the great influence that marijuana may have on latter civilization. Its impact on the past and the present has been articulated and discussed in depth, but the drug also has a probable future effect. Due to studies of memory and forgetting (inspired by the wonders of THC), scientists are moving closer and closer to help resolve memory-related disorders. Memories can be crippling.
Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) is a direct consequence of the mind being unable to wipe off or effectively forget an event. An individual, suffering from PTSD, is unable to forget a heinous act and thus he/she is locked in a state of stagnation. This is a so called mind paralysis. Thanks to the frontier opened up by the study of THC, society and humanity in general can reap the benefits of a scientific breakthrough in PTSD therapy.
The physiological breakthroughs and societal advances listed above could not be possible, or cannot be discussed without mentioning THC. Marijuana is one of the ultimate winners in the domestication.
Potato is the final plant that this essay is going to discuss. The plant has a unique ability of producing an enormous amount of food in relation to acreage, enough food to feed families and communities for years. Potato is also a member of a relatively new scientific frontier it helped to instigate, called genetic engineering.
Potato has an important place in the hearts (and stomachs) of people living in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Through a rigorous process of trial and error, the Peruvians achieved immense success in potato farming. They do not realize it, but they drifted away from the myopic monoculture that had plagued the potato plants existence, potato farms, lives and businesses that depended on it. In so doing, they have preserved the diversity of the plant.
Potato enjoys reverence in these regions. It is extolled as a treasure and a source of wealth (or livelihood). It receives spiritual rituals, passed down from preceding generations and potatoes are an avenue by which people stay connected to the spirit world and the ancestors. The ritual is known as the potato harvest. It is a prerequisite to the continued harvest of potatoes. The Peruvians must thank Mother Nature. Here we see a spiritual dimension hitherto unheard of by the articulated plants. However, it gives weight to the issue at hand. Spirituality and civilization are inextricable. Therefore, the influence of potato on spirituality has a strong effect on the lifestyle of the Peruvian community.
The Peruvians are descendants of one of the first civilizations: the Incan Empire. The empire was a pioneer of one of the most elaborate agricultural systems on earth. Potato played a vital role in this system. The empire existed to a large part due to potato. People were well fed and hence they were capable of engaging in strenuous activities that made the Incan Empire a highly sophisticated empire. The eventual collapse of the empire saw the proliferation of potato into Europe, which changed Europes history.
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The Northern part of Europe found itself failed by grain that seemed to favor the other parts of Europe. The North was, therefore, lowly populated and engulfed by regular famine. However, everything changed when potato entered the scene. It provided a lot of calories and did not require large tracts of land or vast labor. As a result, there were fewer people needed to grow potatoes hence fewer people needed to support the urbanization process. The rest of people were channeled into vocations that sparked the beginning of European industrialization.
However, potato had the most historical impact on the Irish. The territory of Ireland was rocky, with weather and poor farmlands. Famines were a regular event. Potatoes became a gift send by God to people. However, unfortunately, they heavily relied on a single type of potato. When a fungus swept through the nation, almost the entire potato crop was wiped out, leading to the worst famine in human history, causing millions of deaths from starvation.
Potatoes created an entire industry known as the fast-food industry. McDonalds exists and accrues high profits because of potatoes. Thus, the plant created many employment opportunities.
In conclusion, the essay shows that we are interconnected with nature. Plants have had an immense influence on our existence and it is time we pay more attention to them and give them more credit. To a large extent, civilization owes its existence to plants.