September 06, 2007
Re claims of impending violent protests at APEC 2007, a brief statement of the blindingly obvious from Crikey!
Roger Gathman waxes lyrical on traffic jams.
Jon Schwarz on The Iron Law of Institutions.
Via Limited Inc., Michael Pollan's collection of articles on history, biology and agriculture. So far I can vouch that Why Mow?, No Bar Code (a piece on the Local Food "movement"), A Gardener's Guide to Sex, Politics and Class (a comparison of gardening books and nature writing) and Weeds Are Us are simply excellent.
From "Why Mow?":
Another day it occurred to me that time as we know it doesn't exist in the lawn, since grass never dies or is allowed to flower and set seed. Lawns are nature purged of sex and death. No wonder Americans like them so much.From "Weeds Are Us":
Now what would Emerson have to say about my weeds? I had given them the benefit of the doubt, acknowledged their virtues and allotted them each a place. I had treated them, in other words, as garden plants. But they did not behave as garden plants. They differed from my cultivated varieties not merely by a factor of human esteem. No, they seemed truly a different order of being, more versatile, better equipped, craftier and more ruthless.And apropos of nothing, I think I'll be changing the subtitle here, as "Pointed missives thrown blindly into the void, there to pass unnoticed and unloved" is starting to bum me out. What I replace it with will probably change about once a day until I get bored enough with tweaking it to settle for what's there.
What garden plant can germinate in 36 minutes, as a tumbleweed can? What cultivar can produce 250,000 seeds on a single flower stalk, as the mullein does? Or travel a foot each day, as kudzu can? Or, like the bindweed, clone new editions of itself in direct proportion to the effort spent trying to eradicate it? According to Sara B. Stein's excellent botany, "My Weeds," Japanese knotweed can penetrate four inches of asphalt, no problem. Lamb's-quarter seeds recovered from an archeological site germinated after spending 1,700 years in storage, patiently awaiting their shot. The roots of the witchweed emit a poison that can kill other plants in its vicinity.
No, it isn't just our lack of imagination that gives the nettle its sting.
So what is a weed?...
Weeds, as the field guides indicate, are plants particularly well-adapted to man-made places. They don't grow in forests or prairies—in "the wild." Weeds thrive in gardens, meadows, lawns, vacant lots, railroad sidings, hard by dumpsters and in the cracks of sidewalks. They grow where we live, in other words, and hardly anywhere else.
Weeds, contrary to what the romantics assumed, are not wild. They are as much a product of civilization as the hybrid tea rose, or Thoreau's bean plants. They do better than garden plants for the simple reason that they are better adapted to life in a garden. For where garden plants have been bred for a variety of traits (tastiness, size, esthetic appeal), weeds have evolved with just one end in view: the ability to thrive in ground that man has disturbed. And at this they are very accomplished indeed.