Acme Weed Killer

May 27, 2012

Just in case anyone was wondering why an ethicist would get invited to participate in a weed summit, I thought I would take the opportunity to explain it this week in my usual manner. That is, I’ll get around to it after chasing several only vaguely relevant rabbits down their respective rabbit holes, all the while alternating between giant leaps of intuition that no reasonable person could be expected to follow, on the one hand, and excruciatingly detailed exposition of minor points, on the other. But before I get into this week’s tangential matters, I’ll take the opportunity to point out that Dr. Janice Swanson, Head of MSU’s Department of Animal Science took the opportunity to respond to last weeks’ blog on local Lansing area eggs that are (or might) compete with Grazing Fields’ eggs. Depending on how you view the Thornapple Blog, you may have to go back to the page where last week’s blog is stored permanently in order to see her comments, so I’m going to provide a handy link right here.

And then I’m going to ignore this issue and plow ahead on weeds. In case the discussion picks up, I’ll come back to it, so don’t feel shy about using the comment box to write something about eggs. This will only confuse the robots and other random surfers who show up here even more thoroughly than the blog itself. “Whazzup? He’s talking about weeds, but the comments are about eggs? Did I miss something”, they say to themselves. And I just love it when people do that, perverse soul that I am. Well, you did miss something bucko, but if you read the first paragraph of this blog, it should not really be all that much of a mystery.

So I’m going to ignore your confusion and plow ahead on weeds. I hope that some of you have felt mild feelings of bemusement at the very idea that some organ of our state apparatus though that it would be a good idea to devote a day in early May to something called “a weed summit.” Isn’t a “summit” something where the leaders of the global powers get together to decide the fate of the 99%? Or maybe it’s more literally “the top” or acme (which should conjure an image of Wile E. Coyote). Well, I guess the idea was just that we would get our best brains when it comes to weeds together and have a tête-à-tête, a meeting of the minds, a high-level confab on all matters concerning unwanted herbaceous life-forms. Agents K and J were there, poking around under the seats, looking for alien invaders.

But you can hear about their adventures on your own so I’ll ignore them and plow ahead on weeds. A weed is a plant in the wrong place. As I said two weeks ago, herbicide resistant pigweed is but one of several problems plaguing American farmers. This gives me a chance to quote one of my favorite songs of the last decade, Mark Knopfler’s “Ole Pigweed”.

Everything was in there that you’d want to see, corned beef and onions and true love,
Turnips and tinned tomatoes, parsnips and a few potatoes, a couple extra blessings from above.
Now this here mingle-mangle was my best one yet, a big old bad goulash worth waiting for
And I’m just about to dip my can and taste some brotherhood of man when I get a feeling that there’s a flaw.
Who put old pigweed in the mulligan? Was it you who put old pigweed in the mulligan stew?
I close my eyes for just a minute, what do you do? Who put old pigweed in the mulligan stew?

Although this points nicely to ethics, the connection to the “best brains on unwanted herbaceous lifeforms” bit  is still kind of obscure, so I’ll ignore the lyric and plow ahead on weeds. To repeat the point from two weeks ago, weeds adapt. And it’s not just your weeds, it’s your neighbors’ too. So to have any effective farming strategy for weed control, farmers have to cooperate, at least on a regional basis. And if they ain’t gonna cooperate, they might as well just do whatever makes the largest buck this year. And that, in fact, is what they’ve been doing.

You won’t find self-improvement or philosophy in a dumpster sitting by the kitchen door.
There’s plenty leek and humble pie. Ain’t too much ham on rye. Sometimes I wonder what I’m looking for
But a spoonful of forgiveness goes a long, long way and we all should do our best to get along.
Add a pinch of kindness crumbling to your loving dumpling, okra for thickening when something’s wrong.
But who put old pigweed in the mulligan? Was it you who put old pigweed in the mulligan stew?
I close my eyes for just a minute, what do you do? Who put old pigweed in the mulligan stew?

And so they must plow (ahead).

 Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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