Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Why Save Wilderness?-Fruits and Veggies!

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Why Save Wilderness?-Fruits and Veggies!

Article excerpt

"A weed is a wonderful plant that stubbornly refuses to grow in a straight line."--Herbalist saying

"God didn't give Adam and Eve a convenience store. He gave them a Garden of Eden."--Jackie Clay (2009, p. 8)

Why save wilderness? Most environmentalists give abstract ecosystemic and aesthetic reasons, yet this approach has yet to garner mass public support. 'To eat' is my personal response, since not only did our ancestors for millennia feel this way, but the reason may be more relevant than ever.

My students are amenable to this idea, yet backing up the claim with facts is no mean task. Whereas information galore is available on supermarket fare, wild food is largely ignored. This article provides basic information on wild edible plants--traditionally the most vital food source for humans--from a wealth of sources, in order to give environmental teachers and others data from the other side of the food story.

Civilized hype

Despite its self-congratulatory propaganda, civilization is at the least a mixed bag. Domestication of the wild, certainly the greatest revolution in our human story, is viewed by many cultures as a loss of power, the truly 'original sin,' a 'fall,' an expulsion from the Garden of Eden--Paradise Lost.

Indeed domestication, the master process of civilization, to some scholars has led to a biological new species. Sedentism, diet change, living in a built environment, and other changes have produced a sorry creature--Homo domesticus--who has become less aware and more docile (like domestic pets) and who displays juvenile behavior in adulthood. To some wags, people have become 'sheeple.' In fact, domestication may be the major cause of today's chronic health problems--it de-powers us (Leach, 2003).

Civilization, indeed, has waged a relentless war against what has always stubbornly resisted its control--the wild. Bureaucratic religion has played a major role, with its fear-mongering about good and bad, which translates botanically into good plant (domestic crop) and bad plant ('weed') and reflects a judgementalism that simply feeds the 'good' ego (we) waging war against the 'bad' others (them).

Yet even the much maligned "invasive" plants, according to research, have innumerable healthful uses (Scott, 2010). For example, the infamous aquatic "pest," the water hyacinth, has edible leaves, petioles, and inflorescences (Couplan, 1998).

At the extreme, civilization exaggerates the dangers of 'bad poisonous' wild plants, comparing them with 'good non-poisonous' civilized ones, but failing to notice the ancient herbalist saying that 'the poison is in the dosage.' In fact, every single so-called "poisonous" wild plant has been used by some culture for a healthful purpose. Moreover, the number of people sickened by wild plants across the world pales to a tiny shadow compared with the tens of thousands killed by the tainted food and dangerous pills of civilization. Civilization's fear-mongering, however, does serve the profit needs of the makers of such products.

All this is not simply neo-romantic rhetoric. A good deal of evidence shows that wild and domesticated plants of the same species are different --wild ones have more power. Plant species in the wild, according to galvanometer readings, show higher levels of electromagnetic energy than their corresponding domesticates (Hall, 1998, pp. 17-18).

Too, agricultural vegetables and fruits have less phytonutrients than their wild ancestors (Philpott 2013; Robinson, 2014). This is hardly surprising, given agriculture's soil exhaustion, erosion, degradation, and poisoning with biocides. For example, for most medical afflictions, wild ginseng is more effective than its field-grown counterpart (Balch & Balch, 2000, p. 19). Wild grapes have more resveratrol, which lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, than supermarket ones (Lyle, 2010, p. 100).

In short, wild plants, unlike their domesticated conspecifics, haven't 'gotten soft' with civilization. …

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