Defining "Organic"

A decade ago I didn't have a clue what "organic" means as currently used. I noticed that there was now a small selection of "organic" produce in the supermarket -- veges are veges! I thought -- and the organic ones were more expensive. (My frugal side always comes out when shopping.) I have learned a great deal in the ensuing decade.

Eventually, I realized that "organic" produce was more "natural": i.e. produced without being saturated in strange chemical pesticides and/or genetically developed with traditional crop breeding practices rather than by new techniques that can splice DNA from completely unrelated species into a plant's genome. In chemistry, "organic" compounds were substances containing carbon bonded to oxygen and/or nitrogen and/or hydrogen that were important building blocks for living entities. So "organic" is pertaining to life. On organic berry packages I found the equivalent French term "biologique" which much more clearly linked the produce to "life." ("Biology" literally means "the study of life.")

Nowadays (2019), the word "organic" is used to describe all sorts of products -- and not just food. Sometimes, it is describing a non-food item, such as cotton or lavender, that has been grown with "organic" techniques. Sometimes it is talking about mattresses or rug cleaning. What does all of this portend, and why have I included the word "organic" in the name of this blog?

Oh, why, thank you for asking!

We are living beings residing with many other living beings upon a living planet. As humans, we have an extraordinary ability to manipulate the natural world around us and build all sorts of useful (and useless!) things. When there weren't so many of us on our beautiful planet earth, and before we had unlocked the power of fossil fuels, we didn't usually impact our planet in whole-scale significant ways. Sure, we sometimes hunted species to extinction (wooly mammoth, elephant birds of Madagascar, passenger pigeons, etc.) and sometimes we fouled water forcing other settlements downstream to move. However, our actions did not have planet-wide effects. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, this has changed.

We are akin to a tiny life living inside of another living being. Is our life going to be symbiotic or parasitic? If we take modern human civilization as a whole, we are behaving in a parasitic way towards earth. But we don't have to be this way.

Imagine this: eons ago, more complex single-celled organisms arose with discreet cell nuclei, called eukaryotes. These new cells were enormous compared to the ancient bacteria that had already existed for a very long time. At some point, a bacteria that was very good at converting glucose to energy+water+CO2 found refuge or was swallowed by a eukaryote. Another type of ancient bacteria that excelled at using sunlight to convert CO2 and water into glucose found itself inside an enormous eukaryote cell. The eukaryotes benefitted from these new arrangements and so did the ancient bacteria. Thus developed the more modern eukaryotic cell, slowly figuring out how to maintain these new arrangements, how to live symbiotically.

We are at a turning point in our development as a species. Will we continue on a path of disaster, acting like an infectious bacteria that eventually destroys its host? Or will we learn how to live symbiotically within our planet earth, in harmony with our fellow living beings here on planet earth?

For me, that is what "organic" has come to mean: promoting humans living symbiotically within planet earth. This blog is a place for me to share my journey as I endeavor to bring my life into symbiosis with the planet and also to share what I find with my human communities and learn how our communities may also live symbiotically with earth. Take this path with me -- we will learn together.