The Opposable Thumb:  Something Good, Gone Horribly Wrong

by Gretchen Mead
Executive Director

I know enough about evolution to know that the opposable thumb is an advancement in the capacities of humans.  It allowed us to use tools – a development that has manifested itself in previously unimaginable ways.  Fast forward to now, a time when we use the thumb with the slightest bit of effort to accomplish such a great proportion of a day’s tasks.  It’s actually, well, weird.

As we sit around with remote controls and handheld gadgets using our thumbs to navigate a day’s work, love and play, admittedly, we are not using other parts of our beings. I cannot help but ponder how this affects evolution moving forward.  Will our thumbs grow in size and increase their sensory motor experience?  Will more of the world be controlled by the gentle touch of a thumb, while we unwittingly lose our ability to walk? Will we become floating heads, connected to thumbs?

Where exactly are we headed with our extreme technological advancements?


Gardening is more than a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. We get food from our gardens. Gardens are beautiful.  Having access to good food is important for EVERY single person in this community.  Food sovereignty is our right: We should know what is in our food, how it was grown.  We should have the ability to impact change in our global food system, because we have knowledge about what is happening with it. These are all BIG picture issues impacted by the mission of Victory Garden Initiative.  You have all supported and fostered this mission for six years now.

Today, I ponder with you an even bigger picture: humanity’s decision to affect evolution with intention.

Wrap it up, Gretchen, you say, because its spring and I’m about to get busy in the dirt. Where are you going with all this?

I’m saying this: Put down your gadget the moment you finish reading these thoughts.  Take a good long look at your hands, your father’s hands, and the hands of your children.  Imagine their potential, where they came from, and where they are going.  What do you want to shape with your hands? How will you decide to affect evolution?

We have a choice. Growing our own food has been our connection to the evolution of the planet for thousands of years.  Our hands tend the soil, know the land, read the signs of an ecosystem that supports life.  As we remove ourselves from the land and opt for the technology of agriculture as a means to dominate and control rather than tend to our land, we are opting for a different evolutionary path.  What kind of progress do we hope for?  How shall we use personal choice to affect evolution?

Victory Garden Initiative has a patient, subversive goal: to engage people in growing their own food at home, where we live and love.  We will be healthier and meet our neighbors.  We will have greater access to good food and use fewer resources.  We don’t often mention that we might also change the course of evolution with a garden… but one could argue that we do.

This year’s BLITZ is in full planning mode and we are on course to again put in 500 gardens in the Milwaukee area.  We hope you will find yourself in need of a garden, offering to help build gardens for others, and donating to support the installation of gardens in low-income communities.


Let us make full use of our opposable thumbs by grabbing a shovel.


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