A little red beetle walks over my arm. On this wonderfully warm Saturday I have nothing on my to-do list, so I can enjoy our square meter of vegetable garden. During the week, Freddy is the hero in the garden who keeps everything alive. The bean plants tumble over their growing strings and bloom abundantly. The beetle does not mind me making a picture of him. If I would have been a biologist, I would immediately go online to check which species he belongs to.
Last week we visited Down House, where Charles Darwin lived with his family for 40 year. Their garden was slightly larger than ours, and any insect that has ever shown up there is almost certainly indexed. Darwin’s garden was his laboratory. He for instance marked a rectangle in the grass in 1856, about as big as our vegetable garden. During the following years he recorded how many different species emerged and survived there. When it comes to publications he would be considered an incredibly productive scientist today. But he was a man of “independent means” and did not have to painfully collect his salary from project proposals.
In the absence of gardening skills I mainly study nature through books, like The cultural lives of whales and dolphins, from Hal Whitead en Luke Rendell. I guess almost everyone is fascinated by whales and dolphins. If you watched or read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you know that dolphins are very intelligent. (watch the dolphins here). The authors of this book take the position that these animals are cultural beings. Just like people are more than their genes, (some) other animals are too.
When it comes to the history of humanity, I am now reading Yuval Noah Harari, an Israeli who is vegan. But I only discovered that later. The fate of the animals is not the only reason why he calls the transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture ‘History’s biggest fraud’:
The Agricultural Revolution certainly enlarged the sum total of food at the disposal of humankind, but the extra food did not translate into a better diet or more leisure. Rather, it translated into population explosions and pampered elites. The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return.
I also started reading the books on which the TV series Games of Thrones is based. Of course that has been a hype for a long time but I have never seen the series. I actually don’t like movies with a lot of violence, so reading the books seemed like a good compromise. And the first book was really nice, excitement and adventure with a range of colourful characters.
While I’m writing this I’m completely in touch with my inner primate, because I just picked a flea from Ivan’s coat. Nature is all very nice, but I’m happier if the insects stay in the garden.