Planting serendipity to stop bugs and smokers

By Lisa Carducci ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-02-28 14:05:17


Planting serendipity to stop bugs and smokers 

In December 2011, Xie Jianping's peers offered him a seat among the elite of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

His election as an academician ignited fierce controversy among the public.

The main reason was Xie researches ways to make cigarettes less harmful, instead of means to ban tobacco consumption.

Another objection was the institute he works for is affiliated with China National Tobacco Corp, the country's largest tobacco company, and that most of his research is sponsored by the tobacco industry.

One of my hobbies and passions is growing all kinds of plants at home.

My friends often say, "You have a lot of plants, don't you?"

I decided to count them. I was astonished to discover 165 pots in four locations in my apartment, including a large, sunny veranda.

I travel quite often and leave the care of plants to my neighbor. I realized it was too much work for him and reduced the number to 78.

When I offered plants to friends, they would say: "Give me a piece and I will graft it at home."

But this doesn't help me lower the number of pots. It's the whole pot or nothing!

I also have a bete noire - inhaling smokers' exhaled poison.

At one time, the right to smoke was as strong as the right to live in a sanitary environment. We had no choice but to put up with smokers everywhere.

So, I used to take my revenge at home - my private territory - and never allowed visitors to smoke in my apartment. If my guests lit a cigarette, I would ask them to extinguish it. But because I had no ashtray, they would usually stub it out in one of the flowerpots.

I once noticed a plant that had insects under its leaves, that I was about to treat, recovered after "hosting" a cigarette butt.

I thought the tar could be an efficient repellent against red fleas, white flies and small worms.

A few days later, I brought a covered jar containing a little water to a colleague who was a smoker and asked him to collect his cigarette butts for me, saying with a smile: "At least you can make your bad habit useful!"

Though the mixture smells like hell after 48 hours, the product offers several advantages.

First of all, it's free.

Second, it's safe for the environment and harmless to the plants.

Contrary to the results of inappropriate use of commercial pesticides, you can't damage your plants by spraying too much tar-juice on them.

The second time I asked my colleague for help, he said: "Every time I opened the jar to put a butt in it, I felt like fainting. When I realized there might be such a terrible smell inside my own body, I decided to quit smoking. Sorry! I can't help you anymore."

I was proud of my request's result, although I had not done it on purpose. Scientific discoveries are often unexpected!

So, I continued to spot potential quitters, even when I had enough killer liquid for my plants. Without saying a word against their smoking habit, I gave them the same opportunity to realize what was happening in their lungs.

In less than a year, I had "saved" not only three smokers but also their families and coworkers who had to inhale their secondhand poison.

For my double discovery - a bug-killer and a smoking-cessation method, don't you think I deserve a seat at the academy?

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