The seeds sown last week have sprouted. We see a dotted green ground on a brown earth. The sky is overcast but the greyness doesn’t make the landscape dull. Sometimes, I feel I should have continued with biotechnology and ecology as disciplinary education and training. There is so much in our immediate environment that strikes curiosity and an urge to understand. The dynamism of nature is a reliable source to draw from, for daily living. Otherwise, life empties out way too quickly. Perhaps, at this stage in life, a combination of science and humanities is serving better. There are days when I am driven by scientific understanding as opposed to how ideas situate in our social world. Social aspects of life and its processes are, these days, wearing me out. For instance, all of this week I have read about seed technology and crop yields. Over the last year, I have seen a periodic surge in insect and butterfly diversity. At other times, it is a fascinating mix of plants growing all around.
Looking at a plant or a flower, its features are not just visual. They are also a manifestation of the genes that the organism carries. Modern agriculture has pushed the game significantly ahead with its sharp selection of genes and with which one can literally design an organism of one’s own ideas. There is discomfort in how far this has been pushed. Genetics (genome sequencing in particular) was the first step in trying to understand the coronavirus structure and behaviour, Knowing the genes is also necessary to know the history of an organism.Coronavirus strains were mapped out from their sequenced genome. Zoologist and naturalist Jonathan Kingdon suggested that there is ‘poetry in genetics’. Walking around the village and observing the diversity of organisms around, I couldn’t agree more. There is poetry here. While this poetry is mostly natural creation, mankind began to tamper with the verses long back. Kingdon wrote –
Fossil bones and footsteps and ruined homes are the solid facts of history, but the surest hints, the most enduring signs, lie in those miniscule genes. For a moment we protect them with our lives, then like relay runners with a baton, we pass them on to be carried by our descendents. There is a poetry in genetics which is more difficult to discern in broken bones, and genes are the only unbroken living thread that weaves back and forth through all those boneyards.The Self-Made Man: Human Evolution From Eden to Extinction
Kingdon was speaking in the context of archaeology and human evolution. I see those unbroken living threads of history now. Genes are marvelous in their ability to retain continuities and point to a time and environment when man knew just enough to combine them in ways and combinations that are useful. The power in our hands now, with advanced scientific research is far too strong. This power has begun to feel problematic in these days spent farming. It affects human beings and biodiversity, both.
For these ideas and disciplinary engagement to re-appear in life after university, thirteen years later, is perhaps for a reason.