Dan Koeppel is the author of “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World.”
Changed the World? I like bananas, but suspect my life would be pretty unfazed by a banana holocaust. The author notes some translations of the Bible imply Eve bit a banana, not an apple, as if true that would be profound (titillating, to be sure--Eve bit a banana).
But then I noted my bookshelf.
Oxygen: The Molecule that made the World (Nick Lane)
Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World (Mark Kurlanksy)
I think it's good for anyone who's an expert on C++, Six Sigma, or applying fertilizer, to think C++, Six Sigma, or fertilizer is pretty important, but 'one of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important', noted Bertrand Russel. In a sense, everything is essential, in another sense not. If it weren't bananas, it would be something else, and so too for oxygen and cod.
I owe my life to everything, good and bad, that ever happened in the history of the universe, because I am the unique combination of sperm and egg that resulted from that very specific moment my mother and father coupled (every ejaculate contains 100MM sperm). That night, their meeting, their life, and then their parents meeting, ad infinitum. My life is the result of a sequence of events so cumulatively improbable it makes one's head spin. But there's the anthropic principle, which states that our observations must be considered conditional on our ability to make them. And just like my life is improbable, so is current modernity. Without oxygen, cod, or bananas, life would be different, but then there would be something else, that, to that being, would be the equivalent of oxygen, cod, or bananas (clearly, w/o oxygen, my replacement would be much different physiologically, but in some aspect, it wouldn't be me, so, same thing).