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What Plants Can Teach Us About Politics

Outside – “In his new book, ‘The Nation of Plants,’ botanist Stefano Mancuso suggests that human democracies may have something to learn from the world’s trees and flowers..

By perceiving plants as being much closer to the inorganic world than to the fullness of life, we commit a fundamental error of perspective, which could cost us dearly,” warns the Italian botanist Stefano Mancuso in his latest book, The Nation of Plants. Mancuso is director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology at the University of Florence and a leader in the emerging study of what he calls plant intelligence. Some biologists say that since plants lack neurons, plant neurobiology is an oxymoron. They dismiss the field as much ado about nothing—like the famous but ultimately debunked 1973 work The Secret Life of Plantswhich had everyone playing Mozart for their ferns but is now seen as a confused and wishful attempt to endow plants with a sentience they just don’t have.

Yet research by Mancuso and others has shown that plants communicate, perceive, and respond to each other and their environment, and can even exhibit something like memory. Plants may lack brains, but, as Mancuso has argued in popular books like Brilliant Green (coauthored with journalist Alessandra Viola in 2015), they’re in no way inferior in biological sophistication or evolutionary ingenuity to animals. In The Nation of Plants, Mancuso half-seriously suggests that they may even be smarter than humans when it comes to the way they live together…”

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