By: Annie Sragner, Arts & Life Editor
Although few people may consider themselves farmers or agriculturists, we all depend on plants. The interaction between humans and plants is tightly interwoven – so much so that some argue that humans are domesticated by plants. This claim may seem nonsensical at first, but there is evidence to support it.
When one hears the word “domestication,” the idea of domesticated house pets may first come to mind. Our relationship with domesticated animals is founded upon mutualism – we provide them with food and shelter, they provide us with protection and companionship. This symbiotic relationship teaches the two benefiting parties to remain in close proximity throughout the duration of the relationship.
Likewise, people and plants have also developed a very similar mutualistic relationship with each other over time. Most plants can essentially grow anywhere with suitable conditions, but humans stay in close proximity of their propagation because we depend on them for food, shelter and oxygen. They provide us with natural resources, we expand their populations.
This process is only limited by the quality of the relationship. For example, most neighborhood homes have both a front lawn and back yard filled with grass that has little purpose beyond decoration.
Imagine how much more people would benefit if we used all of this lawn space to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs instead of unusable grass. If gardening practices became more common beyond rural areas, we could significantly decrease the amount we spend on food and groceries.
And history validates the success of this philosophy. During World War II, the U.S. government encouraged civilians to grow “Victory Gardens” to increase food production in support of the war. When individuals took it upon themselves to maintain their own personal gardens, the country produced 7,949,000 tons of vegetables, or 42% of the nation’s vegetable production.
That is truly impressive, but the main point is that the sustainability of plants directly correlates with the sustainability of humans because we both depend on each other for survival. This relationship can only progress as much as we decide to participate in it.
The easiest way to get started is to plant some of your favorite vegetables on your balcony or near a big window in your home. Or if maintaining a garden doesn’t seem personally realistic, buy produce from farmer’s markets that support local agriculture.
As spring slowly slinks into bloom, consider how much plants contribute to your everyday needs and assess the strength of your relationship with them. The more we can contribute to the progress of our relationship with plant life, the more we can gain from their sprouting possibilities.