Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wall Street and biology

The Star Ledger reported yesterday's Wall Street debacle with the expected calamitous tone:
The Dow Jones industrial average was on its way to plunging 504 points, erasing about $700 billion of wealth in a matter of hours.
Star Ledger, September 16, 2008

Wealth is one of those words we think we know, wrap our lives around the concept, but forget to connect to biology.

Ultimately everything of value is connected to the ground, the sun, the air, the water.

I just picked enough basil to make a nice batch of pesto to share with my love when she comes home tonight. The basil looked just as green today as it did yesterday.

Two packs of basil seeds (~140 of them) from Pintetree Garden Seeds will run you $2.20. Throw them in the ground, get them some sunlight, and they will grow. And grow. Then grow some more.
(Some folks believe cussing at them will make them tastier, but I cuss so much it's tough to run a controlled experiment to test the hypothesis.)
I peeled some cloves of garlic, just as pungent as yesterday. Cost me about 2 bits, would be less if I wasn't too lazy to throw a few cloves in the ground in April.

A handful of pignolis, pine nuts, cost under a dollar.

A splash of olive oil on top of it all, maybe a buck or two more.

Not one of the ingredients lost a molecule's worth of value in yesterday's run on the market.

No wheat berries dissolved. No yeast expired that weren't going to expire anyway. The monarchs are still headed to Mexico. The sanderlings are still noshing on coquinas in Cape May.

Ultimately everything of value is connected to the ground, the sun, the air, the water.

Not saying the Wall Street debacles's not going to put a dent on the redistribution of wealth to those who already have it.
Donna Puzella, who owns a chocolate shop with her sister, said she might not see her business affected until the holidays....

"I have no idea what's going to happen with them. I'm very worried," Puzella said. Are there even going to be corporate gifts?"
Star Ledger, September 16, 2008
I live in north Jersey. I realize a lot of people are going to be hurt.

Still, trusting several zeroes after an integer trumped up by speculation, greed, ignorance and a faith that it represents true wealth is the kind of hubris that can kill a civilization.

Today's learning objective?

Ultimately everything of value is connected to the ground, the sun, the air, the water.

Some call it Creation, some call it nature, some call it God, some call it Gaia. There are a lot of words used by a lot of cultures that recognize the mystery.

What you won't hear it called is money.

No new ideas here--Wendell Berry pervades my thoughts, as do Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. If children truly learned what's worth anything, I fear expect our economy would collapse.

Photos from the National Archive.


Anonymous said...

Seems like all the "financial experts" have neglected to notice that the economic system is a subset of a larger, more important system, called the biosphere. Can't blame them. They were never taught that.
If financiers truly understood what wealth was, it wouldn't magically appear (bubbles) or disappear (corrections) with the execution of market orders.
Thanks for this post.

momomom said...

I like this forum for your words. The pictures are a great addition.


doyle said...


I'm just starting ecology with my sophomores this week. A few of them may become financiers of one sort or another. I wish I knew a way to fix the disconnect. It's not just the money people, of course.

Still, they know enough about limited resources to buck up oil futures today. So long as we put as many into the ground as we take out, we owe our lives to petroleum.


I just saved some basil seeds, will save some more next weekend. I am also going to grab some zinnia seeds--dannye sent me a bunch this year that never germinated. Any ideas?

(Most of the photos are lifted off the National Archives. If I ever get my Cape May blog going, I'll start posting more of my own.)

(And let folks at E2 know I'm thinking of them.)

doyle said...

Almost forgot--the picture of the horseshoe crab at sunset at the top of the blog was Leslie's, taken at the edge of the Delaware Bay this summer.

I steal her photos fast as she can take them.

doyle said...

Oh, one more thing, this time for Bill.

I may have mentioned this already, but I plan to use at least one (possibly more) of your videos from your website (http://www.ed4wb.org/) for class soon.

Anyone peeking at these comments would be served well by visiting your site. Making connections matters, but many of us (and I'm right at the top of my own list) scurry away when we start seeing how what we do affects everything else.

momomom said...

My idea for this winter is indoor basil. One basil plant gone to seed in the summer produces a LOT of seed. No need to conserve, harvest as much as you can. Planted indoors, even in relatively poor light, but good light would be best, I'm predicting basil will germinate and grow some. I figure some is good enough. Basil is basil flavored and smells like basil from the cotyledon on. Hmmm google these words: micro green basil. I think I'm behind the times, this has already been invented. Oh well, I'm doing it anyway. Plant seed close and harvest plants young for winter. Yum.

momomom said...

Zinnia is Dannye's signature flower. I'm not sure why it didn't germinate for you.

Do you want some cypress vine seed? Money plant? Small leaf basil? Dill? mmmm micro green dill. Bronze fennel? Maybe oregano, it had flowers but I'm not sure about seed. Micro green oregano?

doyle said...

Great idea, momomom! I'll start some basil this weekend. I (finally) have a southern window--it's big and in the kitchen, a perfect place for basil.

I'll be saving tons of my own zinnia seeds this fall. Zinnias are beautiful, tough, and edgy enough not to be just a flower. Lots of critters like them, too. Maybe dannye's plants are partial to dannye. Or maybe some of his zinnias did germinate, and I confused them with mine (as if zinnias could either be "his" or "mine."

Not sure yet what I'm going to plant next spring, and I have a micro-vocabulary in garden plant names. Still, we plan to tear up another section of the front lawn and will be tossing in lots of different things into the ground.

We have dill volunteers, but I have no idea what a money plant is. I'll go google it.