Thursday, January 12, 2012

For Science!!

Today, a dear friend passed along a link regarding a project in Oaxaca that seeks to save Mexico's native corn varieties. Maybe it was because it's 4 a.m. and I can't sleep. For whatever reason, I'm in a cranky mood and I felt motivated to talk about something from my past that I'm still a tiny bit bitter about. And this friend is really, really easy to open up to, so that might have something to do with it, too. It was my pre-cancer life when I was on my way to...what? An exciting future as a botanist or geneticist or pharmacologist? I'm so far from that person now, that I sometimes find it difficult to even remember who she was or what motivated her.

This incident might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but maybe it changed the course of my beliefs about the world. My grandfather practically revered science. I don't think I've ever said it here, but when he died we found out that he had donated his body to science. Tulane Medical School got the call from I don't know who, but they came and picked up his body straight from my grandmother's house. He'd never discussed his decision with anyone, but they showed us his papers where he'd agreed to it. I was shocked at first, but after a while it made perfect sense to me. It was just the sort of thing he'd do. I'm sure he loved the idea of being able to contribute something of value to the world of medical research. This is soooo besides the point of this post, so I'll get back to it.

I don't like to talk about it very often, but...In my academic days about a decade ago, I was once in a conference presenting my results of a study on GMOs and I was silly enough to believe that a bunch of biologists from universities around the nation would give a damn about this stuff. I even passed out little seed bags that I handed to people. I'd filled them with all sorts of seeds that can grow well indoors or outdoors. Most bio labs that I worked in had windows and I made sure to tell folks that these would grow fine in a window sill. I wanted to make it more than just a dry research review on tomatoes and rice.

So, ya' know. I presented my research results. The tl;dr version was about how we don't need to pump nutrients and other shit--excuse my language, but you know that's what it is--back into certain foods, because there were already varieties that already have a high nutritional value. So, I did the whole power point with the charts, figures, and blah blah blah. *I* was silly enough to believe that what I was saying would at least be mildly interesting. I mean, these are biologists. They are notorious for being able to get interested in teeny tiny results that almost no one will care about. I got a couple of polite questions and requests for copies, but it was mostly disinterest.

My feeling now is that change ain't going to come from a lab. I'm not anti-science or anything wacky like that. It's just...We're going to have to save ourselves by preserving whatever we can ourselves. The seed banks they're creating won't help us. You and I know that folks like us aren't going to be the kind that those folks in power think should be preserved if mankind has to start over from scratch or from whatever ruins our Grand Catastrophe leaves behind.

I'm just so disillusioned about the current state of things with plant genetics research. I mean, you'd think SCIENTISTS would be leading the charge in the fight for the preservation of biodiversity. I have opinions about why they're not, but I think I'd better save that rant for another day.

5 comments: said...

I like growing things and keeping them alive too. Maybe that's what I loved so much about being in the classroom. Too bad my fellow teachers and administrators didn't seem to share my enthusiasm very often.

For most of them it was either just a job or a stepping stone to a better paying job. It seemed so strange to me. Why, if you don't like kids and if you don't just find it "fun to know stuff"...why would you go into teaching in the first place? Unless, of course, you're unable to do anything else.

Other teachers and administrators often asked me why I'd walked away from higher paying jobs to teach. I just told them. I'm addicted to hearing a kid say, "Oh, wow,Mrs. B, I get it. That's cool."

So, you're up because you can't sleep because you belong to that same 5% as I of the world's population that's nocturnal?? Or, are you not feeling well?

Being nocturnal isn't much fun. The rest of the world has a distinct prejudice against night people. Before I retired, I had to knock myself out with pills to go to sleep. I thought there was something wrong with me.

Then, I found a really great doctor who told me. "There's nothing wrong with you. You even see better and all the rest of your senses seem heightened at night. You're one of the 5% of the world's population the other 95% should be thanking. Without you, human civilization would never have survived. You kept the fires burning and the wolves at bay while the others slept. When people tell you you're lazy and need to turn your hours around, tell them to fuck off."

I hope you're feeling better. I reposted the CREDO link to sign the petition. Sorry about all the FARMVILLE mess on my wall.

Rootietoot said...

I agree. My first real loves are biology and botany. I prefer to grow heritage varieties in my garden (have you ever tasted a King of Prussia tomato?? Hoe Lee Crow.)
I think the salvation of these old varieties will be the home gardener and small farmer. Industrial farms aren't interested in highly nutritious foods or stuff that's environmentally sound. They're factories, and it's all about More Faster For Cheaper.
It's easy to despair if you look at the large picture. I'd say draw in closer, and start to grow some heirloom tomatoes and pole beans in your backyard.

Anonymous said...

My comment have nothing to do with your writing, I just want to ask one things.

You think it's okay that black people can be proud of their culture and identity, but in same time doing this as white is wrong and racist?

You think Affirmative action is acceptable?

Anonymous said...

I read about an artist a few years ago in New Mexico who, coincidentally, was collecting seeds. The article didn't really go into why and I just thought "how interesting'--yeah, revolutionary!

<3 Brooke

bint alshamsa said...

Anonymous, this society has never taught white people that they can't be proud of their culture and identity. We have
Columbus Day,
St. Patrick's Day,
St. David's Day,
Italian American parades,
Irish American parades.

We have teams like
The Fighting Irish.

We have Washington's birthday.

Greek American Heritage Month,
Irish American Heritage Month,
Jewish American Heritage Month,
National Italian American Heritage Month,
Polish American Heritage Month,
National Tartan Day,

Nobody calls these things racist, so what in heaven's name are you talking about?

I think that since Affirmative Action helps more white women than any other group, it certainly isn't racist.

I hope that answers your questions.