Us and Us

2014 12 11 Carl Sagan same stuff

Read the script of this episode of Cosmos with Carl Sagan.

Australian Ecopoetics Past, Present, Future: What Do the Plants Say?

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“In what follows, I will be guided by my own green biases and botanical proclivities. To foot-slog a swathe through the intricate ground of Australian ecopoetics, I will don chlorophyll-streaked glasses – will listen closely to what the plants say.”

Over at the Cordite Poetry Review, John Charles Ryan uses Marder’s plant-thinking to suggest where environmentally-engaged poetry in Australia is headed.

“A postcolonial ecopoetics of plants is about paying attention – and learning how to listen, a process whereby the botanical becomes a lens for the literary, rather than vice versa.”

‘Fractal Poetics’: A rose is a leaf is a rose is a leaf

2014 11 13 fractal_plants

“Before Benoit Mandelbrot’s fractal mathematics and Gertrude Stein’s roses, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote about a primal plant, “Urpflanze,” which was constructed as a leaf within a leaf within a leaf. I wonder if his Platonic vision for this plant, from which all other plants derived, was an early imagining of fractal mathematics and response to fractal forms in the natural world (coast lines, human migration patterns, Romanesco broccoli).”

Read the rest of Amy Catanzano’s article on fractals, feminist philosophy, and models of poetic form at Jacket2.

Marder: Is it ethical to eat plants?

2014 11 01 ethical eating marder

Michael Marder’s work on the philosophy of plant being necessarily raises the question of ethical eating. The Irish Times promotes Marder’s new book, The Philosopher’s Plant, and dips a toe into the question in a recent interview.

“… sentience as a criterion is insufficient, and the notion of respect is inevitable in any postulation of an ethical diet,” says Marder.

The Most Versatile Impressionist In the Forest

2014 10 17 Boquila Vine

The Boquila vine shape-shifts itself to look like the leaves of whatever plant it is entwined with.

“Gianoli noticed that the leaves on one particular shrub seemed to be growing from two very different stems—one much thinner than the other. He eventually realised that the thin stems actually belonged to a Boquila vine, whose leaves were exactly the same as the shrub’s. He walked on and found Boquila entwined around many different trees; in most cases, its leaves matched those of its host. It looked like a mimic, and one with many guises.”

“This vine seems to mimic many specific models, depending on its host—something we’ve previously only seen in animals.”

Can Plants Think?

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This video by AsapScience, which does amazing things with whiteboard marker, offers an easily consumable summary of most of the research on plant communication: ethylene signalling, odour mimicking, tannin production, fungal network communication (the Wood Wide Web). Even corn that can hear!

“If you define intelligence, or thought, as the ability to solve problems, interact with an environment, or even work in groups, then plants are incredibly smart.”

A good resource to introduce the breadth of plant communication to learners.

Helping Forests to Flee?

There are few reasons why the whitebark pine has been declared an endangered species. But a warming climate is the worst threat, says this NYT article, and scientists are considering “moving” this population of trees from their home in the Rockies northward in order to save it. The idea is called “assisted migration,” and not all biologists are on board.

Our very idea of a “plant” suggests the inability to pick up and change locations in order to escape threat or find food. Certainly we have moved plants around the planet to suit our needs; we created our own categories of native and invasive species. When we start moving plants to conserve them, do those categories even matter anymore?