March 08, 2004

Second Nature

from - smijer

Ordinarily, I wouldn't review a book that is this old, or that I read so long ago. I make an exception because the first hint of spring arrived last week. I think spring becomes more and more valuable as a person gets older. After a winter inside attached to a computer keyboard, it's a pleasant reminder that outside is good. With that I will review the first book that comes to mind when I start thinking about pulling weeds from the flower beds:

In Second Nature, Michael Pollan breaks tradition with his grandfather's stodgy, old-style gardening, and attempts to build a landscape in the nature-worshipping spirit of Thoreau and the "mod" environmental culture left over from the 1960's.

If you have experimented with gardening without pulling weeds or fencing out herbivores, then you can imagine the sort of defeat Pollan suffered at the hands of nature: "utter."

This defeat led him to modify his understanding of nature's power and man's place in it. Society was born with agriculture: more than the ability for language, laughter, or trigonometry, it is humnity's ability to modify the environment that has made us successful, and it is was through agricultural cooperation that our first great societies were born.

Agriculture, Pollan argues, is man's defining work, and horticulture is that work in miniature, trending toward art. Pollan builds an ethos around horticulture that gives proper caution to humanity's impulse for overreaching and domination of nature, but encourages us to do what we do best: mold nature to suit ourselves, to the benefit of us both.

This is the perfect read for the advent of spring. Pick up a copy from your independent bookseller today:

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Posted by smijer at March 8, 2004 07:08 AM
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