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I’m not certain where to start when reflecting on the opening chapter of The Botany of Desire, maybe that is in itself a reflection of Pollan’s writing style throughout it. He led us to believe that we would be looking into apples, and how they represent sweetness in our culture, but he ended up telling the story of how apples populated North America and eventually became monoculture clones of a very few breeds. The story was entertaining, but seemed unnecessary due to the fact that I couldn’t care less if John Chapman was planting his tart apple seeds for applejack, and taking child wives while he did it. I’ve never been naive enough to believe that the first people to emigrate from Europe to the New World were the cream of the crop. It was all of the throw aways that Europe no longer had use for. Not to say they weren’t industrious and integral to how we live today, but how they chose to live outside of building a future in the New World that we now enjoy seems completely irrelevant. I understand why Pollan did it, he researched Chapman in great detail and had to sit through some seemingly very painful excursions with enthusiasts. It would be all in vain had he not put it to print. 

What I found much more interesting is the plight apples will have to overcome in the future. Being all grafted clones from a select few trees, they are now in real danger of losing the Red Queen struggle. Without sex shuffling genes, apples have become extremely vulnerable to pests and viruses. That is why they are among the top crops for pesticide use. To combat this, “gene libraries” of wild species are being cared for in hopes that they can cross pollinate, provide resistance, but not lose the appeal the apple had before. Whether or not this is possible remains to be seen, but it is reassuring knowing there are people out there doing the good work.

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