Saturday, 4 June 2011

Who's been eating my potato?

I doubt if anyone reading this blog sees ‘nature as an endlessly exploitable resource’ – as Mark put it at the beginning of the week. People in Transition are generally pretty aware of the need to work with the natural world. But what is the ‘natural world’ and does it want to work with us?

I’ve just dug up some potatoes – a vegetable that originated on the other side of the world and is only safe to eat as a result of thousands of years of genetic manipulation by humans to reduce the levels of toxic glycoalkaloids in the tubers – but something has got there before me. Millipedes probably. Potatoes have only been grown here on a significant scale for a few hundred years but the natural world is quick to exploit a new food source.

Last week we were walking in Devon and I took this picture from Haytor – I did not dare stand as the 80mph wind would have blown me over the edge. The tors are a relatively recent phenomena that were created during the ice age that occurred a mere 20,000 years ago and sent the early human settlers of this country scuttling back south to warmer climes. I was surprised to read on Wikipedia that ‘There is a theory that about 15000 BC prehistoric man, by killing the mammoths, removed a major grazing factor and so let the North American and Eurasian tundra get overgrown with trees, which, sticking up above the winter snow, made the land darker and made the spring warming much quicker, and so ended the last Ice Age.’ Surely this has to be the earliest example of man induced climate change on a major scale!

Coming back from holiday I found that my arch enemy The Mole had wreaked havoc in garden – the dry conditions leading him to undermine my prized recycled shed in his search for worms in the damper soil beneath it.

What this all means to me is that we can’t predict or control nature. We need to try and understand the natural world and to make the best of the resources available to us but nature will always throw up some surprises. Which makes it all the more important to build the resilient society that Transition aspires to.

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