All manner of plants from the land…whose land? Pete Seeger; the passing of a legend

‘This land is your land

This land is my land….

This land was made for you and me.’
I’m currently researching for a seminar presentation; the subject is ‘Science and Imperialism’ and I’m going for it by looking at medicines obtained from plants. So the week has been buried under numerous beautifully-illustrated plant-history books as well as the latest academic tome written by my tutor. Entitled Medicine and Empire, it’s very accessible but authoritative and I can hear his voice as I work my way through.

It was the second chapter ‘Plants, Medicine and Empire’ which started me thinking about the many photographs I’ve taken since gaining access to a digital camera eight years ago; previous to that if I tried to capture floral beauty the technology to hand was ineffective and paying for printing made it an expensive wasteful exercise.

My brain began referencing pictures taken on various trips to exotic destinations alongside the developing structure of the required course work, and thus began the process of selecting relevant images to accompany the¬†presentation….a glorious task as I trawl through hundreds of plants and flowers, and others which will act as ‘pointer’.

 

Working late I caught the news which started with a distinctive voice singing ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ and knew that it was to announce the passing of a folk legend.

Pete Seeger died this week; in his 95th year but still delivering songs to stir and reflect the feelings of citizens trying to make a stand. Questioning the Establishment via folk song has a long history; although I know I’m no expert to be writing a critique of his work, he was often featured on programmes presenting the history of citizen protest.

Challenging authority was not always considered acceptable, let alone ‘polite’ but Pete Seeger delivered messages within catchy tunes, during times when his country was sitting very uncomfortably within itself.

In 2009 he performed at a concert to mark the inauguration of the first black president of the USA after a life-time trying to teach Americans to think.

His death has been received with many tributes from home and abroad; President Barack Obama conveyed the gratitude of Americans to Seeger for reminding them where they come from and showing them where they need to go.

Not all might echo that spirit when thinking about protestors at ‘Occupy Wall Street’ but Seeger was there, joining the march whilst supported with two walking canes.

Where have all the flowers gone?

From where I’m standing now within the history of medicine and science, the answer is a long one….The flowers were desired and carried away, fuelled by political expedient and economic greed; the power of those plants fuelled the process even more [as in the case of Cinchona which offered a human response to the ravages of malaria.]

Armies protected by plant-based medicines were more able to conquer; thus human exploitation was made even more possible in places where toxic Nature had previously controlled life itself.

“When will we ever learn?”

Commercialism fuelled by greed took the flowers and moved them; the desire for “Man over Nature” continues and really needs a new Pete Seeger.¬† Folk song is often regarded as old-fashioned, but music appeals and offers many disguises, and, being portable, may be carried under the breath even when confronted by tear gas.

 

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