Professor Stefano Mancuso often starts his talks with a slide and asks, “What do you see?” The slide is simple: a meadow surrounded by trees. The response? Almost always, “nothing”. Then he shows same meadow with two deer. “Now what do you see?” The public cries, “deer!”
That “nothing” is the base of one of the biggest problems threatening this world: Plant Blindness.
Most noteworthy is the use of the word “nothing”. What do you mean nothing? While there are no animals, humans, or built structures in the first, there are plants!
Walking With Blinders
Plant Blindness was defined by Wandersee & Schussler in 1998 as “the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s environment. This leads to the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs*.
This myopia with regards to the plant world prevents humanity from understanding the role of plants as the true enablers of life on this planet. Consequently, we do not consider co-creation with them among the most important objectives to be pursued.
Research toward a Plant Blindness Cure
I see the work I am doing today with classmates, colleagues, collaborators, and researchers as a pair of glasses that gives sight to the blind. With every project, I—as a representative of humanity—communicate to the plants I am working with—as representatives of the plant world—my desire to reestablish the connection between our worlds. In this way, I send the message that I am with you and for you. And I hope the plant welcomes this gesture and responds in kind.
My solitary actions are not enough, therefore we need a more substantial and consistent commitment from the majority of humanity. But one can only lead by example. If my actions inspire just one person. And that person inspires one. As a result, I believe the plant world will recognize our efforts and will help us find new models to create a sustainable ecosystem in which all species can thrive. It is worth a try!
*Plant Blindness is the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment—which leads to: (a) the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere, and in human affairs; (b) the inability to appreciate the aesthetic and unique biological features of the life forms belonging to the Plant Kingdom; and (c) the misguided, anthropocentric ranking of plants as inferior to animals, leading to the erroneous conclusion that they are unworthy of human consideration (Wandersee & Schussler, 1998a).
Want to know more?
If you want to be part of the conversation around plant neurobiology and social innovation or plant music and communication, reach out via:
- this website,
- and if you are interested in this type of research, our Facebook group on the Effects of Plant Music on Human Health and Interspecies Music.
Also published on Medium.