Watermelons Exploding in China: Maybe the Teachings of the Sages Are Still Relevant

May 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of China’s great philosophers, Mencius (4th c. B.C.E.), a follower of Confucius, told the story of a man from the state of Song in central China:

There was a man from Song who was distressed that his shoots of corn were not growing and so he tugged at them.  Wearily, he returned home and said, ‘I have exhausted myself today; I have been helping the sprouts to grow.’ His son hurried out to take a look; the sprouts had all withered.  Under heaven, there are but a few a few who do not help the sprouts to grow.  Some feel that they can be of no benefit at all and thus neglect the sprouts entirely; they are the ones who don’t even bother to weed.  Some actively help in the growing process; these are the ones who pull at the sprouts.  It is not just that they are of no benefit—they even do harm. (Mencius 2A.2)

In telling this story, Mencius had a moral purpose, not an agronomic one.  Still, it’s rather a shame that farmers today in the eastern province of Jiangsu didn’t take the agronomic lesson to be learned from Mencius more seriously.

In early May, farmers there, wanting to increase the size of their watermelons, sprayed about 115 acres of the crop with the chemical fertilizer forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator.  The chemical is legal, but, apparently, not particularly safe, especially when used in excessive quantity and in overly wet conditions.  Beginning on May 7, watermelons in Jiangsu began, on their own, splitting open and exploding, sending rinds, seeds, and shrapnel of red flesh into the air.

No casualties yet, but one women in Jiangsu had a close call as the watermelon she was cutting up exploded in her hands.

Farmer Liu Mingsuo, the owner of eight of the landmined acres, has told China Central Television (CCTV) that he can no longer sleep at night, as he’s haunted by the vision of exploding watermelons.  He told China Central Television, “On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (bursting watermelons) but by the afternoon it was 100.  Two days later I didn’t bother to count anymore.”

The moral here for the Chinese is: listen to environmental advocates urging that the country reduce its use of toxic fertilizers and pesticides (China Global Times).

Also: read your Mencius!



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