Thoughts on a Seedling

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A pine cone sprouts from the burnt forest floor the spring after a wildfire. Of all hopeful metaphors, a germinating seed might be the most deeply rooted (pun intended). Yet the metaphor gives a dark warning as well: you reap what you sow. The importance of literally planting good seeds can’t be overstated, but the idea is also a useful stand-in for cause and effect. Everyone interacting with food from farm to plate (or trash) should be acting with intent to ensure future harvests are even better than this one.

Let’s look at a semi-literal example: the Open Source Seed Initiative. While it seems absurd for copyright law to claim living things as intellectual property, the waters get muddier when expensive genetic engineering is involved. What you might call ‘big seed’ has taken legal action against farmers who plant seeds they grew themselves, demanded royalties from plant breeders, and even stood in the way of serious academic research. The public response is a move towards sharing seeds, an idea which not surprisingly runs parallel to open source software like Linux and Firefox.

Case harvester, 20+ mule team, circa 1912 (Wikimedia Commons.)

Planting the ideological seed of freedom and community requires the actions of consumers as well. Finding a diet that fits your beliefs and lifestyle might realistically involve buying less of something you really like. It’s a small individual action, but every ‘planted seed’ matters in a marketplace so interconnected.

The metaphor also works on a global scale. Changes in earth’s climate will require preparation to support billions of people yet to be born. If we needlessly burn fossil fuels, waste fresh water, and trample the land to dust, what seeds are we planting for the next generation? What kind of seeds do we need to start planting… and sharing?

Sunflower seedlings, just 3 days after being planted. (Wikimedia Commons.)

Works cited:
Hamilton, L. M. (2014). Linux for Lettuce. The Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from


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