By HILARY FLOWER FOR FREE LANCE – STAR
The most interesting thing that has come out of biology over the past few years, in my opinion, is the growing evidence that trees are sensitive, even altruistically sharing resources with their brethren when needed. If plants are sensitive, we may need to rethink our relationship with them.
In “The Nation of Plants,” plant neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso goes even further by asking: If plants could talk, what would they tell us?
Personally, I think they would say: (1) Please stop killing us (this goes for both clearcut forests and neglected houseplants); and (2) if you are so smart, why don’t you just make your own food from the sun like we do? But Mancuso imagines himself speaking on their behalf before the United Nations, presenting a “Constitution of the Nation of Plants,” with eight articles. Each article is a lesson that plants can teach our species about how to live on the planet sustainably.
Mancuso is clearly having fun with this bold, fresh and imaginative approach to thinking about our current environmental situation. He refrains from giving plants a first-person voice, or lecturing us. Instead, he takes us on wild intellectual adventures through the colorful associations of his career.
For example, in article 1, Mancuso gleefully tears up our idea that “Homo sapiens is the only species entitled to dispose of the planet as it suits its needs”. But first we need to calculate the probability of extraterrestrial life, see the impact of “life” on our planet from space, predict how Earth would change if humans were to disappear, and consider the Sistine Chapel and the Divine. Comedy. Short, sweet and always surprising, Nation of Plants is the botanist manifesto you never thought you needed.