Seeds of change

May 14th, 2012

Published on, by Michael Stewart, May 11, 2012 (A maize of possibilities).

The beautiful image you see is not photoshopped. It is a photo of the heirloom “Glass Gem” maize variety recently rescued by seedsperson Greg Schoen and carefully stewarded by the Seeds Trust. When I saw this photo, I was overwhelmed. This, I thought, is a glimpse into the world we have denied ourselves because of how we choose to live. This is a picture of what kind of world we could live in if we only willed it … // 

… Capitalism is supposed to offer us unlimited choice: I can have whatever I want when I want it. What Schoen’s gorgeous corn kernals show us, however, is that “choice” is not diversity. Why would I want to “choose” to have tepid, shrinkwrapped corn in December when I can have 300 or more kinds of corn in August? We see this dynamic play out in virtually every sphere of society: I may be able to choose which film to see on Friday night from a stock of dozens, with new movies opening every week – but when I start to realize that Chernobyl Diaries is just a watered-down Paranormal Activity 2, at what point do I need to wonder how many Batman (or Twilight or Harry Potter) sequels will be enough?

There are few, if any, repositories of diversity so breathless, so awesome, as can be found in the natural world. So even when we’ve convinced ourselves that corn comes exclusively in yellow and light-yellow, the Earth has the capacity to shock us out of our complacency with such force as Schoen’s corn impressed on me. It’s moments like this – yes, something as simple as seeing a new seed varietal – when the utopian possibilities of our world confront us with dazzling urgency.

Margaret Thatcher left us with the legacy of TINA (There Is No Alternative). But Schoen’s “Glass Gem” shows us that it simply isn’t so. The choices we make as a society actively deprive us of access to these alternate ways of being. If we can see such marvels in a single ear of corn or a misshapen tuber, what awaits us if we reimagine the way we structure economic, judicial, parliamentary and cultural policies?

Perhaps this seems naïve – it may seem like a far leap from vegetables to social practices, ethics and mores – but what if we thought of naïvité in terms of its etymological roots: un naïf, the newly born, unencumbered. Such a perspective would surely look upon the capitalist system in which we live, which limits diversity, flattens our capacity for utopia and sets inexorable limits on the human and say: no, not that. Surely, it would choose instead to embrace the possibilities of a wondrous world as complex, multicoloured and beautiful as this photo; and as simple as an ancient seed. (full text).



Worldwatch Blogs;

Transforming Cultures;

Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity;

What Is and ISN’T the Economy for? on Worldwatch Blogs, May 9, 2012.

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