Johnny Appleseed

This quote from Chuck Palahniuk’s book Lullaby has been stuck in my head for the past week.

When you think about it from a native plant perspective,” says Oyster, “Johnny Appleseed was a fucking biological terrorist.”

Johnny Appleseed, he says, might as well be handing out smallpox.

Centuries ago, sailors on long voyages used to leave a pair of pigs on every deserted island. Or they’d leave a pair of goats. Either way, on any future visit, the island would be a source of meat. These islands, they were pristine. These were home to breeds of birds with no natural predators. Breeds of birds that lived nowhere else on earth. The plants there, without enemies they evolved without thorns or poisons. Without predators and enemies, these islands, they were paradise.

The sailors, the next time they visited these islands, the only things still there would be herds of goats or pigs.

Ignoring the next part about the return of some panspermaic god with some KC Masterpiece for its seeded humanity, for whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about uh… “terra”forming (e.g. the Green/Red environmental factions in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars.

It’s curious to me, the preservative vs. conservative approaches to environmentalism. One wants to freeze the environment like a mosquito in amber, whereas the other views the environment as a dynamic system, seeking to preserve some sort of stable equilibrium, minimizing their impact on an environmental changes, which in maintaining the status quo increases genetic diversity though it reduce selective pressure.

From a seed bank perspective, this is advantageous. A higher potential pool of genetic material to draw from – higher number of divergent genotypes for comparative genomics.

I guess in terms of genetic boom-bust, this is a good thing. But the question is what happens when a selective pressure is applied.

I guess there’s no correlation in genetic terms – nobody’s advocating for a “red” view of human genomics – or once things have been cataloged or indexed, then it’s ok to exterminate. I guess that’s the question, individual genetic health, or group genetic health. There might be some long term advantage, heterozygous or otherwise, to things typically considered debilitating or painful.

This could be extended to mental health. How much of technology, the arts, humanity as a whole is due to individuals with nonstandard, not “neurotypical” brain configurations. Many of these people are diagnosed with some disorder or disease. You’re sick, now contribute. Modern universities all have diversity initiatives, they don’t want to be left out of some hidden cache of intelligence. But I’m not sure that applies.

I guess the overarching theme is one of over-simplification and homogeneity. Nuance or exception is threatening, difference is to be identified, labeled, and dismissed/feared.

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