Charles C. Mann on How the Potato Changed the World. Photo Gallery. Video. Alfred Crosby Interviewed on the Columbian Exchange.
"Cultures at the far edge of the world" (YT) and "The worldwide web of belief and ritual" (YT). Two TED talks by anthropologist and explorer Wade Davis (previously) on the diversity of the world's indigenous cultures and their beliefs, and the richness of the "Ethnosphere," which he describes as "the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, ideas, inspirations, intuitions brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness." [Via Mind Hacks]
Well, that's one less Carolina flying squirrel, but having it for dinner might actually help keep them around. A list of endangered American species once common on the dinner table has become a book, its author, Gary Paul Nabham, encouraging the reader to keep disappearing local culinary traditions alive. Endangered Dinners.
Wade Davis, on "Death and life in the Ethnosphere - The Naked Geography Of Hope" : "In Haiti, a Vodoun priestess responds to the rhythm of drums and, taken by the spirit, handles burning embers with impunity. In the Amazon, a Waorani hunter detects the scent of animal urine at forty paces and identifies the species that deposited it....On an escarpment in the high Arctic, Inuit elders fuse myth with landscape, interpreting the past in the shadow of clouds cast upon ice.....Just to know that such cultures exist is to remember that the human imagination is vast, fluid, infinite in its capacity for social and spiritual invention." The death of the Ethnosphere was Margaret Meade's great concern up to her death, says Harvard ethnobotanist Wade Davis of Serpent and the Rainbow fame and student of Richard Evans Schultes, founder of Ethnobotany : "The surprising results obtained from treating psychoactive plants allowed their users to communicate more directly with the unseen world which they believed to exist." Davis coined the concept of the "Ethnosphere" and has worked for it's preservation through Cultural Survival
Food For Thought? A beautifully-done site that's both a catalogue and compendium of information on plants with legendary powers. (Mandrake root, anyone?) But is this kind of ethnobotany a useful discipline? Should we be cultivating exotic species just for their trippiness?