Ordinarily, I’d be writing about my tulips now. But there are so many noteworthy news stories at the moment for gardeners that a series of links seemed more pressing.
Good news for the plastic life! Yale students have found a fungi from the Amazon that can break down polyurethane–even without oxygen, as at the bottom of a landfill. Of course, this probably wouldn’t surprise mycoloist Paul Stamets, whose super-fun book Mycelium Running enumerates many things mushrooms can clean up, including oil spills and the residues of chemical warfare.
Another less friendly fungus, thought to be from Europe, seems to beresponsible for the white-nosed syndrome that is killing so many bats.
One faint sign that the federal government does actually work to protect the interests of ordinary citizens: The F.D.A. just ruled that antibiotics can no longer be fed to livestock without a prescription from a vet. And one sign that it doesn’t: The E.P.A has refused to ban pesticide 2,4-D.
I really don’t understand why anybody still uses pesticides, when the science increasingly suggests that they are less effective at controlling pests than organic management, which allows for “evenness,” or a balance of populations of different creatures that keeps any one problem from getting out of hand.
But what I understand and don’t is apropos of nothing. Just to leave you agog over your coffee, I’ve included this link to an International Herald Tribune blog post about a tribe on North Sentinel Island that still has had almost no contact with the modern world. The island belongs to India, which now guards its isolation.
Reporter Mark MacDonald ends the post with a series of questions:
What’s your view? Would the Sentinelese relinquishing their way of life be outweighed by the benefits they’d gain from antibiotics, air conditioning, heart surgery, chainsaws, motorboats? Would their lives be elevated by an exposure to Shakespeare, Chartres and Messi, Caravaggio, coq au vin and “Casablanca”? Or should they be left entirely alone, unobserved and unstudied — to prosper, or to die out, or merely to live on their island as they always have?
Those are the questions. I suspect that gardeners might answer them slightly differently than air-conditioning-addicted shut-ins, who emerge only to take out the motorboat and chainsaw on the weekend and disturb the peace.
What’s your vote? Are the Sentinelese happy? Are they miserable? Are the islanders predisposed to happiness happy and the ones predisposed to misery miserable? Are they any different from us at all?