© 2024 WUTC
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Janisse Ray’s ‘The Seed Underground’ Explains Startling Loss of Seed Diversity

“[I]n the last one hundred years,” Janisse Ray writes in The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, “94 percent of seed varieties available at the turn of the century in America and considered a part of the human commons have been lost.”

Her book explains why so many seed varieties have vanished, and how this loss could pose serious environmental dangers.

“We know this," she writes, "the less biodiverse any system is, the greater the potential for its collapse. In shriveling the gene pool both through loss of varieties and through the industrial takeover of an evolutionary process, we strip our crops of the ability to adapt to change and we put the entire food supply at risk.”

In this extended interview, Ray discusses her book and the “seed savers” movement: people who are actively working to re-discover and preserve endangered types of heirloom tomatoes, okras, apples, corn, and other foods.

Ray also talks about her seminal work Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, which won the American Book Award, the Southern Environmental Law Center Award for Outstanding Writing and the Southern Book Critics Circle Award.

She will be in Chattanooga on July 24th at 7 p.m. in the Raccoon Mountain Room inside the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s University Center to give a talk, "Sustainable Growing, Heirloom Seeds and Protecting our Pollinators."  The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Department of Biological &Environmental Sciences and the Tennessee Valley Wild Ones are bringing Ray here.

Tickets are $5 for Tennessee Valley Wild Ones members, $15 for non-members.  Registration ishere.

The lecture is part of the occasional series “Horticulture and Urban Ecology” from UTC's Department of Department of Biological &Environmental Sciences.

From the event page:

Award-winning author, naturalist and activist Janisse Ray will give a talk in Chattanooga Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 7:00 pm. Ray will be speaking on heirloom seeds, agrodiversity, and the future of food. In addition to her books, Ray writes poetry and fiction, and her essays have appeared in a wide range of publications, including Audubon, The Washington Post, Sierra and Oprah magazines. The author lectures widely on nature, community, organic agriculture, native plants and sustainability. Ray holds an master of fine arts degree from the University of Montana, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Unity College in Maine in 2007. She has been in residence at Coastal Carolina University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Keene State College, and Green Mountain College. She was the John and Renee Grisham writer-in-residence for the 2003-04 academic year at the University of Mississippi. Currently she is the William Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana. She is on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow.

*Updated 7/22/14 to add more information about the event.

Related Content