The Mighty Weeds

Until the origin of agriculture, there was no such thing as a weed. A weed, by horticultural definition, is "a plant of no value . . . that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants."21 Many of the plants we now consider to be weeds predate the agricultural revolution; they were (and still are) just opportunists that invade disturbed soil. Indeed, a few such "weeds" helped initiate the agricultural revolution by "invading" the disturbed soil around human habitation sites (and then coevolving with the humans to eventually become "crops"). Moreover, by ecological definition, weeds are an important part of nature: as pioneer species, the initial invaders quite literally do the groundwork of establishing soils for the plants and trees that later follow a natural succession through various phases leading, in many regions, to the establishment of forests.

The problem with weeds is that they are better at capturing solar energy and soil nutrients than our highly selected monocultures of crops. They also reproduce and disperse quickly and effectively, as I see on my lawn every year. But from the point of view of earth's biodiversity, it is actually the crops that are the "unwanted" weeds. They deprive the land of more productive ecological systems and the biodiversity in them.

If we extend the definition of "weeds" to include animals, humans are the most effective weed ever known. As botanist John W. Bews put it in 1931: "Pioneer men, like pioneer plants, are most plastic in their reactions to the inorganic environment. ... It is their business to conquer new habitats. They are ready to meet any emergency; they can fight their way through all the varied difficulties presented to them by Nature, but they fail to subordinate themselves to the community as a whole, when that becomes more complex."22 As pioneer weeds, we capture an overwhelming amount of energy, and reproduce swiftly. Humans deprive the land of biodiversity, and would be largely "unwanted" by most other species (should they have the option for desire). However, sometimes when there are too many of us, nature automatically begins to weed its garden.

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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