Diversity Rediscovered

indian corn


We have all heard the term diversity a lot this week, but diversity is a word that most of us take for granted.  It’s a word that we have heard a lot about over the past few days, but most of us tend to forget what it truly means.  Sometimes it takes the small things in life to remind us just how important a word like this is.   It takes the small things like an assembly at your children’s school to really embrace and appreciate what the word means.  This is a word that we all learned as children and one that continues to be drilled into our children, but as adults we tend to forget.  We tend to go along with life and not think about how much diversity elevates our standard of life on this planet, but the huge role it plays for our survival as well.

As I gazed around the auditorium at my children’s assembly yesterday I realized just how important this word is.  It is not only the fabric from which we have built these United States of America, but it is also the guiding principle by which all of us live.  Most of us just don’t realize how dependent on diversity we are to survive on this planet.

First off, there is a diversity of the people on this earth.  Without these different kinds of people our world would be pretty damn boring.  Our family trees would be nothing more than a family branch.  We would all raise the same family, a family without an identity or personality.  We would all be stuck worshipping the same god, following the same path and making the same mistakes.  We would all be influenced by the same things and our lives would pretty much move along with little emotion or true sense of belonging.  There would be no jazz, there would be no rock ‘n roll, and there would be no hip-hop, just noise.  We need this diversity in order to evolve, to change and to adapt.  The one thing that is constant on this globe is “change” and unless we are able to embrace it we will all end up like the dinosaurs, buried for millions of years for someone else to come along and discover.

Next, think about the diversity of plants and animals on this planet.  Each plant and animal serves its own purpose.  Each uniquely designed to sustain the life chain it was created for and to ultimately support the higher level above it.  We take this diversity for granted in today’s genetically modified world and create strands of corn and wheat that can withstand drought, have higher yields and ultimately fight off insects.  We do all of this without a regard for what this single source solution will mean for the long run.

Genetically modified grains have been sited by some as the culprit to the large number of increased allergies to these products.  A study published by the National Center for Health Statistics division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of every 25 children has a food allergy, representing about a 20% increase between 1997 to 2007.  There is no direct evidence that genetically modifed grains are the issue for this increased level of allergies,  but it does make one wonder.   It is funny, by manipulating this natural diversity and focusing on less variety we may have ultimately created more problems. 

Corn is a great example of what diversity truly means, the US Department of Agriculture’s Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa holds 19,780 different samples or “accessions” of corn from around the world, but in the US we plant less than 100 varieties.  One of the most diverse and abundant commodities in the USA and we plant only plant less than 1/2% of these varieties on a large scale basis.    I think the Department of Agriculture needs to take a refresher course in diversity and survival.  Without diversity and change eventually bacteria, insects and other organisms will find a way to infect this also heavily genetically modified plant, plus just think about all the beautiful colors and flavorful varieties of corn that we are not being bale to enjoy.  We need to break the corn bank in Ames, IA and set corn free.

Now think about food.  Can you imagine if we all had to eat the same boring vanilla flavored mock every day?  Thank god there is chocolate, thank god there is strawberry, blueberry, peach caramel.  Thank god there is anise, cilantro, fennel, dill, oregano, basil.  Thank god there is Lager, Ale, Stout, Porter and finally thank god there is Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.  I wake up everyday and I am thankful for bacon and all of the other amazing and unique flavors that make this world a beautiful place to live and eat.  We were all born with the sense to detect sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami for a reason.  There is a reason why some of the most poisonous things on the planet taste bitter and some of the most nutritious are sweet or sour.  We are attracted to these different tastes and this unique culinary world we live allows us to taste a diverse array of dishes that once again makes this a diversely fabulous place to live.

Even in our diet we need to eat a diverse food selection in order to stay healthy and survive.  We need a balance of protein, carbohydrates, salt, vitamins and minerals to survive.  We need to eat a rainbow of diversely colored fruits and vegetables to get this ideal mix of minerals and vitamins to sustain a healthy existence.  Each color provides its own unique place into the human nutrition plan.  Without this color, without this diversity we would all not be able to survive and prosper.

So, as you sit back on this Wednesday morning pondering what you have to do for the rest of the week; take a minute and remember just how important diversity is to our existence.  It not only  makes us who we are, but it makes us be better than we ever could’ve imagined.  It makes us try new things; it makes us think in different ways; it makes us human.    As Americans we need to remember that diversity is the foundation of our country, but humans we need to remember that diversity is the key to life.  We need to embrace it.  We need to appreciate diversity and not try to modify or oppress it.  

Living and eating diversely will not only make life feel better, but taste better.

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