The Trouble with City Thinking
The organic mindset is simple: nature’s ecosystems are perfect, or at least as perfect as she’s been able to make them up to this evolutionary point. They only become imperfect when human beings who think they know better than nature try to change them, or who find her ecosystems in some way annoying or disrupting of human intent.
The ultimate insult to nature is genetic modification, which derails her millions and even billions of years developing creatures who contribute their bit to one of her ecosystems. Scientists unspool the DNA of farm crops and muck around with it by inserting chunks of genes from other creatures. Some of this is silly: the gene for phosphorescence was taken from a sea creature and inserted into a cat’s DNA to get a glow-in-the-dark cat. Other GMOs are truly dangerous. Scientists have put the gene that creates a toxin deadly to caterpillars and other wormlike larvae and put it into corn. The result is that new superworms resistant to the toxin have evolved and are threatening American corn crops. Same thing with plants genetically engineered to survive being dosed with herbicide. New superweeds have developed resistance to the herbicides, too. Nothing hastens evolution like trying to clamp down on life’s natural processes. Nature will always win.
Shakespeare saw this 400 years ago. In Romeo and Juliet, the Friar is delivering a soliloquy on nature when he says, “For nothing so vile on the earth doth live, but to the earth some special good doth give.” That’s country wisdom. But there is a strain of city-oriented thinking espoused by those who don’t understand nature’s perfection. Some examples of city-person thinking:
I had a friend once upon a time who lived and worked in New York City. I worked with him for nearly two years, before I left the city to move deep into the countryside in eastern Pennsylvania. Having grown up in the country in that area, I felt quite at home there, relishing the huge diversity of life and life forms on my property, which included high, rocky slopes; low marshy ground; a running spring of good water, and forest all around. My New York friend drove out to see me and after an hour or so, he asked me, “How can you stand to live here?” I asked him what he meant. “There’s nothing here,” he said. Now that’s blatant city thinking.
A friend from Los Angeles and I were talking just a few weeks ago and I was admiring the ravens who had chosen our forested hillside as a place to hang out and “awk” to each other, for that’s the sound they make. “I don’t like the ravens,” he said. And then he said that he didn’t like the raccoons, possums, or turkey vultures, either, but did like the hawks. It astonished me. You can’t pick and choose among the ecosystem’s inhabitants. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle—you can’t appreciate the whole picture unless all the pieces are in place. Liking hawks but disliking ravens is city thinking.
Finally, I have a friend who raises bees. He became aware that California buckeye’s flowers are toxic to bees. The buckeye is a pretty, compact woody plant with long panicles of very fragrant white flowers in late spring, followed by big nut-like fruits that are like large versions of horse-chestnuts, to which the buckeyes are related. This beekeeping friend has a buckeye on his property, so to prevent harm to his bees, he cut it down. This is heavy duty city thinking. Doesn’t he know that bees are smart when it comes to their own bee business? If buckeye flowers are toxic, will bees gather their pollen and nectar and carry them back to the hive to kill off everyone? No—with the wisdom nature gives them, they will avoid the buckeyes. I went to a farmers’ market this morning, and by the parking lot were many plants and trees in bloom, all being worked busily by honeybees. There was also a big buckeye and you could have looked all day, but you wouldn’t have found a single bee working those flowers.
Because of faulty city thinking, bees are smarter than the man who supposedly “keeps” them.
The organic mindset is pure country thinking, always working with nature, not against her.