Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wildflowers: A Post That's Educational and Stuff

Turkey is home to around 9,000 species of wildflowers, 3,000 of which are native. Many of these flowers can't be found anywhere else on earth. Just in Turkey, there are almost as many wildflower species as in all of Europe combined. Cool, right? Those are some totally useless facts I learned during my illustrious career as an Internet content writer. But it's something about Turkey I think is extremely interesting.

Can you believe these are wildflowers growing near some dormitories?

I'm also enjoying the walks on campus, where spring wildflowers abound. I managed to get in a bunch of pictures before they mowed this past week.

I've always thought of primrose as a houseplant that's been overbred like goldfish and has nothing to do with nature, but it grows all over the place here.

There are as many as 30 species of wild wheat native to Turkey. These plants are kind of like the "original" wheat, ancestors to the food wheat growing all around the world. This makes Turkey one of four gene centers of cultivated plants. Of course, genes from the ancestor plants can now be used to introduce (or re-introduce, I should say) desirable qualities like disease resistance and hardiness to cultivated varieties that have started to lose these qualities.

I'm not a big fan of biotechnology and genetic engineering of food crops, but I still think that's kind of cool.

Most of the grass around campus is what I call meadow grass-- it's really just nice, green, sensible groundcover that doesn't need much tending or water, and I doubt it's ever fertilized because why bother fertilizing what would be weeds on a manicured lawn? Meadow grass is lovely and what makes a weed is highly subjective.

As of 2007, our good and forward-thinking Ministry of Agriculture started allowing the cultivation and sale of GM foods in Turkey. Europe has been pretty strict on the growing and selling these products, but Turkey, unfortunately, has not, and instead has allowed Monsanto (a company that represents, to me, pure evil) to sell Roundup Ready seed such as sugar beets, corn, and cotton as well as many vegetable and feed crops.

Violets aren't particularly special as a wildflower, but they're delightful nonetheless.

A creepy aside to this is a few months ago, I saw the Ministry of Education on the news "informing" everyone that Israel was engaging in some sort of attempt to make Turks weak and sick with their GM crops. "Eh?" I thought. Where did they suppose the Monsanto seeds would be coming from when they let them in? They're only grown in like 5 places on earth, and Israel is the closest. Is there so little communication between ministers? At least that report went a long way towards explaining the state of education here, just as Minister Kavak's comments on gays and TV kissing went a long way towards explaining the government's ability to look after women and families.

Without getting into the evils of Roundup and Roundup Ready food and Monsanto's evil plan to rule the universe with its particular brand of obnoxious evil, I find this deeply disturbing. It's not just the cellular toxicity of Roundup (particularly on fetal cells), but the possibility of wild plants being contaminated by GM seed. Then there's the economic side of it, where Monsanto sends out its evil lawyers to sue farmers who knowingly or unknowingly grow Roundup Ready crops without paying Monsanto.

I put this picture here to lighten the mood a little because Monsanto sucks and these flowers hanging out next to the clover are an adorable opposite of suckiness.

Then I read this whole thing about conservation efforts in Turkey, and it appears some positive steps are being taken. One problem is cyclamen, specifically a rare variety called mirabile. Mirabile bulbs, as well other cyclamen and tulip bulbs, are quite valuable. Naturally, some assholes in so-called developed countries have decided to take advantage of the villagers who wildcraft these bulbs as their livelihood. The way it works is, you keep the villagers in a perpetual state of borderline starvation so they'll go slave away in the forests digging up as many bulbs as possible, by giving them as little money as possible no matter what they dig up-- relatively worthless bulbs as well as the expensive ones. The plant populations become depleted, and some guy in Europe makes a bunch of money and labels the packages with "Grown the Netherlands" or whatever so consumers don't suspect they're buying something unscrupulous.

I think these green petals are a false flower around real ones that haven't bloomed yet. They're like a gentle geometrist's ode to symmetry.

So at least there are some good conservationist people out there teaching the villagers cultivation techniques and sustainable harvest so they'll one day be able to make a bunch of money off the foreign buyers, who very much deserve to be screwed.

And this, in a nutshell, is why we poor liberals will never get it together. The causes are endless, as well as the types of people and places our hearts bleed for. Ecology, in particular, is a mess because it's never a unified cause. Didn't anyone get "The Circle of Life" stuck in their heads after watching "Lion King?" Instead, there's one group of bleeding hearts throwing money at the sea turtles while other is worrying about cyclamen. Then there are all the other folks upset about human rights and women and education and freedom of the press. Then you have to decide if you feel sorrier for the Syrians or the Bahraini Shias or the Haitians or the whole rest of Africa and most of Southeast Asia and who your favorite sad group in Pakistan or Afghanistan is this week, plus the Aral Sea and it never ends. We have a lot to be concerned about.

We have these in Oregon, too. They have soft, fuzzy leaves and can be used to wipe a little boy's nose in a pinch...

Not that people should stop helping women and journalists and villagers and sea turtles and cyclamen. I just think we'd be a lot more successful if we had a nice, simple conservative agenda: God=good, rich people and corporations=good, guns=good. Abortion, queers, communists, terrorists, flag-burners and anything weird or foreign=bad.

When I found this blue stuff by the side of the road, I was all, "Ooh, a fascinating unnaturally blue fungus of some sort!" But when I poked it with a stick, it turned out to be puke. Quite why there's so much puke along the road to the professor housing I'm not sure I want to know. And I definitely don't want to know what this puker had eaten before puking. I'm sure it had something GM in it though...


Nomad said...

I was writing for another blog that was much more political minded and I noticed one of the guest poster wrote about her "liberal cruise." Before I vomited I distinctly remember looking at all her photos, her standing next to famous celebrity liberals (mostly washed up actors from the 1990s). And then there was a long part about the food they ate on the cruise ship and a small bit about one or two of the causes that listened to. And I thought if this is what an activist looks like then we'd better be kissing the poor world goodbye.

As I reach a certain age when the big ugly nose of Death is constantly shoved in my face, I think what a gift it is to be alive and we just don't appreciate the really incredible gift we have all been given.
And then I think how every day in a thousand ways we are destroying it, not just for our own species but for all life. And although brainy scientists tell me that life is probably scattered all over the universe, I have my doubts. I sometimes think how tragic it would be if and when we have made life here completely impossible. It makes me quite sad and quite angry.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

A creepy aside to this is a few months ago, I saw the Ministry of Education on the news "informing" everyone that Israel was engaging in some sort of attempt to make Turks weak and sick with their GM crops.

Here. (It is worse, the guy who came up with this bright theory is the head of YOK.)

Stranger said...

@ Nomad, the worst part it what losing battle it is to try to save the world. Wind power is great, but it kills birds and disturbs the worms. Solar is nice, but the fossil fuels needed to make the panels are killing us all. I love my iPhone, but the Chinese workers who build them are jumping out of factory windows in despair. Just eating a single Cheerio is committing such massive destruction, it hardly bears thinking about first thing in the morning as I sip my Starbucks (Yes, Starbucks, shame on me but it's the only decent whole bean coffee I can find here) Fair Trade Ethical Global Warming Worker Exploiting Plastic Packaged coffee. The minute inter-connectedness of nature is becoming mirrored by the minute inter-connectedness of globalization and every level of production. It's mind-blowing.

I don't think we're strong enough to kill our Gaea. Hopefully, the sun will nova on us first. Life will carry on regardless, just as it always does. It's just that life doesn't give a flying fuck whether we're part of it or not.

@Bülent, loved your comments over on Kamil Pasha. I wonder if the whole thing was about those Black Tomatoes that suddenly appeared everywhere. Or should I say, Evil Terminator Communist Brain Implant Turkish Baby Killer Tomatoes Without Birth Certificates? In any case, the YÖK guy's ideas trouble me more than I can say, and I wish he would worry more about higher education, particularly those issues that have nothing to do with headscarves but more to do with higher education.

He's not too far off with the "genetically programmed" gaffe however. Monsanto caused a few mini-famines in third world countries after learning farmers were using the ancient (and clearly communist) practice of seed saving, thus growing Roundup Ready crops for free. To combat this terror, they "programmed" their seeds (and named them Terminator, ironically enough) to produce only mules (in the sense of being barren), or seeds that would die soon after planting. Unwitting farmers planted them, expecting to, you know, reap their livelihoods, and instead found themselves with a bunch of nothing.

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Stranger, the YOK guy is doing things that he got put in place to do and getting support from people who want those things done. So, as far as that goes, everything is working fine and the guy's earning his keep. Of course in the world I [or perhaps we?] live in the entire thing can be described by choice words that happen to be illegal to use. I'll say what's legal then: I love him, I think he's great, I also love the esteemed hierarchy he heads. I have deep respect for the imprimatur he's entrusted with and the ability of that to turn [s]crap into gold. I furthermore love it that creationists and such are getting into academic positions to further spread inner peace and deep wisdom among our scientists. Glory be to our paternalistic gov't and His esteemed servants and licenced institutions. (There, I feel better.)

As far as 'programming' goes, yes, Monasonto or others can and do make sure that new seeds will need to be bought every year. The mechanism for that is well understood, I think. That's different than programming time bombs to harm Turks X years from now.

I'll go further, this gov't spends a considerable amount of money on sending students abroad for graduate study (they pay good stipends + school tuition). I don't know if the YOK guy got that U of Chicago PH.D. on his own or through a gov't deal. If the latter, given his demonstrated intellectual prowess and approach to facts I'd question what we got for our money. I don't expect people to turn into monuments of ingenuity and intellectual integrity merely through the acquisition of a diploma, but I do expect the process to teach them to produce high quality an harder-to-detect BS even if they choose to go that route. That doesn't seem to have happened in this case.