Lives of Weeds explores the tangled history of weeds and their relationship to humans. Through eight interwoven stories, John Cardina offers a fresh perspective on how these tenacious plants came about, why they are both inevitable and essential, and how their ecological success is ensured by determined efforts to eradicate them. Linking botany, history, ecology, and evolutionary biology to the social dimensions of humanity’s ancient struggle with feral flora, Cardina shows how weeds have shaped—and are shaped by—the way we live in the natural world.
Weeds and attempts to control them drove nomads toward settled communities, encouraged social stratification, caused environmental disruptions, and have motivated the development of GMO crops. They have snared us in social inequality and economic instability, infested social norms of suburbia, caused rage in the American heartland, and played a part in perpetuating pesticide use worldwide. Lives of Weeds reveals how the technologies directed against weeds underlie ethical questions about agriculture and the environment, and leaves readers with a deeper understanding of how the weeds around us are entangled in our daily choices.