Hybrids and monocultures are risky. They have a narrowed range of evolutionary survival strategies. Whatever afflicts one plant can afflict plants nearby.
I love heirloom Cherokee purple tomatoes. When I started the first year of the Cherokee Seed Bank, volunteers grew Cherokee purple tomatoes, a kind now preserved in the World Seed Bank. Cherokee purples are tried and tested across the generations. These indeterminates contain within their DNA a scramble of survival strategies, surprising the gardener with individual and unpredictable variety from plant to plant. Nature rolls more evolutionary dice with these genetically-diverse heritage plants.
Monoculture hybrids are just fine if every cultivation variable responds to a simplified range of solutions. Geneticists can isolate and improve one quality – wilt-resistance, early fruit, tobacco mosaic resistance – though whatever weakness one plant exhibits, the next plant is not much different. It works both ways.
Humans are something of a 7.7 billion member monoculture on planet Earth. Our similarities make us convenient hosts for COVID-19 coronavirus, which is a tiny 400 to 500 nanometers in size, and has evolved to a hardy design against being removed by the human body’s immune system.
Demographers estimate the people alive today comprise about 7 percent of all humans ever on Earth over the preceding 50,000 years. Pandemic forecasters (yes, there is such an occupation) have modeled probabilities for a range of scenarios. They expect a midrange of from 500,000 to 23 million cases within a year. Where the virus totals out within that range is a function of the diversity of our collective survival strategy as a species. It seems good to have many different approaches to surviving, so we can learn which ones work the soonest, best, fastest and most completely.
For instance: social distancing. It is the practice of standing afar from every other potential carrier so as not to be a random target (and potential host) for the unimaginably small particles propelled in little transportation capsules fashioned inadvertently but fortuitously out of human secretions. Places on Earth are sometimes so densely peopled that we’re thinning ourselves out a more sustainable distance. Even when the gravest risks of this virus are over, we will still be able to cough over a distance of five feet. Social distancing is a temporary strategy. We do it by not going to malls.
I’m proud that as humans, we have overcome our dinosaur brains enough to not just let the random chips of fate take us down as Earth’s dominant species. To quell this virus, we are making sacrifices just as previous generations did.
I’m not so proud of the profiteers in this "new normal" – such as U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, who dumped his indirect ownership in Quail Springs Mall after Senate Intelligence Committee briefing forecasts. Lucky Jim; lawmakers can’t profit from insider trading. Inhofe claims the stock sale was about moving to mutual funds in an effort to comply with the rule against insider trading. He liquidated, by some estimates, $230,000 worth of holdings before the stock market plummet. The harm here is that lawmakers may fail to act timely with appropriate solutions when their personal wealth is put first.
Moms have a natural radar for baloney excuses that are implicit confessions. Moms probably noticed that not only did Inhofe pull a "Martha Stewart" based on professional secrets, he also hadn’t fully complied with avoiding the appearance of impropriety. The fact he hadn’t already sold his specialized stock says, “Oops. Mom, I didn’t do what I was supposed to do and got caught in the very problem that the law was designed to prevent.”
But moms won’t be investigating Inhofe’s insider trading. James Lankford is ethics chair.
Kathy Tibbits is a Cherokee citizen, attorney, and artist living at Lake Tenkiller.