Popular Science

If we were all the same…

… things would be so much easier.

Or would it?

A few years ago I read an article in Popular Science (a very fascinating mag, it is) about bananas (fortunately they have an online version of that article here). It stated that some scientists are concerned that the world’s most popular fruit is in danger of extinction, and now they’re researching ways to save it.

“What?” you might say, “but I see bananas in the market every day!”

Well, that ubiquitousness is part of the reason of this concern. You see, most, maybe 90%, of all bananas consumed in the world is of a certain variety called the Cavendish. This variety was found in Southeast Asia (yeah!) in early 20th century, cultivated, researched, and put into commercial production about 50 years ago. Since then, most of the bananas in the world are exactly the same, as if they were cloned from a single host. Here in Indonesia we have several other varieties available, like the ambon, raja, pulo, etc., but that’s a special case.

The problem with this condition? A single disease outbreak could wipe out most of the world’s banana population. It had happened before to another mass-produced variety called the Gros Michel, which was wiped out by the Panama disease in the 1960s. In fact, Cavendish replaced the Michel as the world’s banana because of its resistance to the disease.

Diversity is a key to species survival. Different genetic properties within a species guarantees that there’ll always be some that survive any given jeopardy, be it diseases, predators, pests, human, or anything else.

This theory is also referenced in the best-seller manga 20th Century Boys, which dubbed it “The Chosen 1%”, as a guarantee that 1% of the human population will survive any virus Friend (the main antagonist) befalls upon humanity. So you see, Urasawa Naoki-sensei rocks! Hehe.

The point? We are all created different for a reason. We may have different colors, views, opinions, tastes, preferences, ways of expressing ourselves, IQs, talents, fashion styles, learning styles, communication styles, and so on, but that’s the way it’s meant to be. We need to understand one another, not look down on, oppress, or even worse, try to kill others who are different from us.

I know it’s difficult. Society, education, the media, and even our own ego usually prevent us from respecting different people. That’s one of the reasons why genocide, negative stereotypes, racism, and divorces happen. Sometimes we can tolerate one kind of difference but can’t tolerate another, like race or religion.

But we have to try. Right?

Otherwise we might face the same fate as the Gros Michel.

But if one day the whole world must switch to avocado splits and monkeys are depicted eating apples, at least here in Indonesia we would still have fried bananas, haha!

(Originally posted on my Friendster Blog. Anybody still remember what that is?)