Happy Columbian Exchange Day


As The Hotline so succinctly put it on Friday, “Say what you will about Columbus, he found us a day off.”

It goes without saying that he’s also responsible for a lot more. National Geographic had a great article in May 2007 about how Columbus’ discovery of the New World sparked unprecedented changes in ecosystems across the globe and here in the Americas:

“After 1492, the world’s ecosystems collided and mixed as Europeans vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans. The Columbian exchange, as [historian Alfred] Crosby called it, is why there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and hot peppers in Thailand.”

The English who settled at Jamestown are responsible for importing the tobacco plant that would be the economic backbone of mid-Atlantic states for generations (the original plant was weak and bland). They also brought the animals you’re probably grilling up today, like the pig, chicken or cow. And they even introduced the Americas to many insects that made monumental impacts.

Without the honeybee, for instance, “many of the plants the Europeans brought with them wouldn’t have proliferated. Georgia probably wouldn’t have become the Peach State; Johnny Appleseed’s trees might never have borne fruit; Huckleberry Finn might not have had any watermelons to steal.” So thank goodness for Columbus, and here’s to his day.


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