2022 saw continued progress for The Plant Initiative – our second full year! We are pleased to share our annual report with you and hope that you will find it of interest. With your support and encouragement, we have taken real steps toward our mission of building a movement to increase respect for plants. The Initiative seeks to accomplish this through advocacy, collaboration and partnerships, and education and outreach.
Learn more about our work by reading or downloading the report here or by clicking on the report cover,
Each month, The Plant Initiative sends out an e-mail newsletter to provide timely information and resources about improving the plant-human connection as well as to keep you up to date on our work.
Here's the link to the May 2023 e-newsletter which was sent on May 15, 2023.
To subscribe to the e-newsletter, just visit our home page and enter your e-mail address on the form at the bottom of the page. If you have a suggestion for a resource, event, or other item that may be of interest to subscribers, please consider sharing it with us at email@example.com.
The Plant Initiative presented a special online conversation with authors Paco Calvo and Natalie Lawrence on "Understanding Plant Intelligence" on April 19, 2023.
Here's a link to the video recording of the event on YouTube (free).
Are plants intelligent?
Authors Paco Calvo and Natalie Lawrence of the newly published book Planta Sapiens: The New Science of Plant Intelligence participated in a conversation on the latest findings on plant intelligence and sentience, moderated by Laura Pustarfi, board member of The Plant Initiative. The program was introduced by Plant Initiative board member Giovanni Aloi.
About Paco Calvo and Natalie Lawrence:
Paco Calvo is Professor of Philosophy of Science and PI of the Minimal Intelligence Laboratory (MINTLab) at the University of Murcia (Spain). He does research in the philosophy of plant neurobiology, ecological psychology and embodied cognitive science. Prof. Calvo studies the ecological basis of plant intelligence by conducting experimental studies at the intersection of the areas of plant neurobiology and ecological psychology. His lab uses time-lapse photography to observe plant shoots navigational capacities, and to critically explore the theoretical underpinnings of cognitivist interpretations of plants' adaptive behavior. His articles have appeared in Annals of Botany, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Biology & Philosophy, Frontiers in Neurorobotics, Frontiers in Robotics and AI, Journal of the Royal Society, Plant, Cell & Environment, Plant Signaling & Behavior and Trends in Plant Science, among other journals.
Natalie Lawrence is an author and illustrator who explores our relationship with the natural world, looking through multiple lenses - from the biological to the psychoanalytic. She has a first-class MCantab in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge, during which she spent most of her time in the Zoology department. She then succumbed to the dark side (Arts), receiving a MSc and Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge. She’s given a TEDX talk, been featured on BBC Women’s Hour and has work published in BBC Wildlife, New Scientist, Aeon Magazine and others. She currently lives in London and writes in a room filled with plants and specimens from her natural history collection, from megalodon teeth to hornbill skulls. Occasionally she is joined by live giant silkmoths.
About the book:
What is it like to be a plant?
It's not a question we might think to contemplate, even though many of us live surrounded by plants. Science has long explored the wonderful ways in which plants communicate, behave and shape their environments: from chemical warfare to turning their predators to cannibalism. But they're often just the backdrop to our frenetic animal lives.
While plants may not have brains or move around as we do, cutting-edge science is revealing that they have astonishing inner worlds of an alternate kind to ours. They can plan ahead, learn, recognize their relatives, assess risks and make decision. They can even be put to sleep. Innovative new tools might allow us to actually see them do these things - from electrophysiological recordings to MRI and PET scans. If you can look in the right way, a world full of drama unfurls.
In Planta Sapiens, Professor Paco Calvo and cowriter author and illustrator Natalie Lawrence offer a bold new perspective on plant biology and cognitive science. Using the latest research findings, Calvo and Lawrence challenge us to make an imaginative leap into a world that is so close and yet so alien - one that will expand our understanding of our own minds.From their rich subjective experiences to how they are inspiring novel ways of approaching the ecological crisis, Planta Sapiens is a dazzling exploration of the lives of plants and a call to approach how we think about the natural world in a new, maverick way.
Planta Sapiens: The New Science of Plant Intelligence can be purchased here or at your favorite bookseller.
The Plant Initiative was pleased to sponsor a one-hour online conversation with Dr. Marc Bekoff on the topic of respect for plants that was held on December 22, 2022.
What does it mean to treat plants with respect? Can we think of plants as well as animals as "minded beings"? What kind of ethical issues are raised by recent scientific research on plant sentience and intelligence? These are some of the topics that were explored with Dr. Bekoff, a world expert on animal emotions and animal behavior.
Here is a link to the video recording which is available free on YouTube.
Dr. Bekoff is professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has published over 30 books, won many awards for his research on animal behavior, animal emotions, compassionate conservation, and animal protection, has worked closely with Jane Goodall, and is a former Guggenheim Fellow.
Marc has also published a number of essays on plants, such as What’s It Like to Be a Plant? An Interview with "Planta Sapiens" Author, The Inner Lives of Plants: Cognition, Sentience, and Ethics, Are Plants Intelligent?, and Smarty Plants: Research Shows they Think, Feel, and Learn.
His latest books are The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce), Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do, and Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possible (with Jessica Pierce) and he also publishes regularly for Psychology Today. Marc and Jessica's most recent book A Dog's World: Imagining the Lives of Dogs in a World Without Humans was published by Princeton University Press in October 2021. Dogs Demystified: An A-Z Guide to All Things Canine will be published by New World Library in June 2023. In 1986 Marc won the Master's age-graded Tour de France. He also works closely with inmates at the Boulder County Jail. In June 2022 Marc was recognized as a Hero by the Academy of Dog Trainers. His homepage is marcbekoff.com.
Marc's philosophy can be expressed in his own words: "My research and writing reflect my on-going and eclectic interests that center on the basic tenets of compassionate conservation, namely, "First do no harm" and the life of every individual matters because they are alive and have intrinsic value, not because of what they can do for us. Treating every individual with respect and dignity is the decent thing to do."
These grants totaling $5,500 were provided in October 2022 to organizations working to increase respect for plants, encourage ethical behavior toward plants, and/or to support development of an effective movement toward these goals.
Grants of $500 each were provided to:
Center for Biological Diversity (Tucson, AZ) to support the Center's efforts on behalf of the endangered Huachuca water umbel which has been reduced to a handful of disconnected clumps in the Southwest US, including through protecting its habitat as well as continued monitoring, litigation, and advocacy on behalf of this plant and the desert riparian ecosystem where it lives.
Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (Spokane, WA) to expand the Center's work with Tribal Bands of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe to protect the rights of manoomin [wild rice], which will include contracting with a Chippewa tribal attorney who will work as part of their team to conduct legal research and legislative drafting involving the White Earth Band and other Chippewa Tribal Bands.
Dogwood Alliance (Asheville, NC) to help support the Alliance's story-telling, forest-loving, justice-elevating initiative: Woods & Wilds: The Podcast, with the grant used to produce four episodes of the podcast in collaboration with a Black, female-led media group as well as to support online education to help improve editing, sound, and marketing for the podcast.
Earth Law Center (Durango, CO) to support travel to the 2023 meeting in Argentina of the Conference of the Parties of the Escazu Agreement, an environmental and sustainable development treaty between governments in Latin America and the Caribbean which has been in force since 2021, to help secure formal support for advancing the Rights of Nature in the agreement, with Earth Law Center helping to ensure that plants, which are sometimes underrepresented in the Rights of Nature, would benefit from Rights of Nature support that is secured through the treaty.
Friends of Animals (Darien, CT) to support Friends of Animals' Pesticides Free campaign, increasing the general public and FOA members' awareness, respect, and concern for plants as valuable beings for the environment, animals, and us all, including developing educational materials and digital publications distributed on social media.
Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (San Francisco, CA) to protect the forests of Argentina under a Rights of Nature case that is going before the Argentinian Supreme Court focused on jaguars, but which has the aim to stop further deforestation for soybean plantations, with the grant helping to amplify the case through a social media and communications campaign.
The Land Institute (Salina, KS) to support the Institute's foundational work in perennial grain crop research and education as it builds learning communities that help society cross the threshold into regenerative, diverse, perennial grain agriculture, with the grant helping to bring more people in to the creative, healing work of learning and acting together with our plant communities toward a future that is more just and perennial, where all members of our ecosphere receive the respect and care they deserve.
Old-Growth Forest Network (Easton, MD) to help support covering the costs of sending copies of Joan Maloof's book Nature's Temples: A Natural History of Old Growth Forests to specific influential faculty members at 25 US forestry schools, with the goal of increasing the appreciation of forests where trees are allowed to live out their natural life cycles and grow to their full ecological potential, with the book potentially increasing awareness of the value of old-growth forests and being selected for class reading lists as well as influencing how university-owned forests are managed.
Re:wild (Austin, TX) to advance the recovery of the Saint Lucian pencil cedar, a critically endangered conifer living on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia with fewer than 100 mature individuals remaining today which are threatened by wildfires and invasive species, with the grant used to complete and disseminate a short video about local botanist Melvin Smith's propagation and reforestation efforts for this tree, to be disseminated on social media and national television to communicate this project to children and adults throughout Saint Lucia and to raise awareness and support for protecting these trees.
Trees Forever (Marion, IA) to support Trees Forever's annual Our Woodland Legacy Symposium to take place on December 15, 2022 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which emphasizes the intrinsic value of trees through the selection of speakers and topics and repeatedly urges property owners and developers to respect, steward and protect plants and trees, with the grant helping to provide overnight lodging for speakers at the symposium venue.
WildEarth Guardians (Santa Fe, NM) to support the development of a new National Environmental Policy Act comment template that highlights the importance of mycorrhizal fungi and shared networks and demonstrates the urgent need for the US Forest Service to identify and preserve those biological pathways, their network hubs (mother trees), and their adapted progeny (seedlings/saplings favored by mycorrhizal fungi), with the template to be used by WildEarth Guardians and its partners to help advance a shift in agency practices toward incorporation of forest wisdom into agency action and planning.
With your support, The Plant Initiative plans to continue to provide grants in 2023 to organizations working on behalf of plants!
2021 was the first full year of The Plant Initiative! We have made some real progress toward our mission of building a movement to increase respect for plants through advocacy, collaboration and partnerships, and education and outreach. We feel encouraged about what has been accomplished in our first year as outlined in this annual report, particularly since we are an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff. We greatly appreciate all of the support and interest you have shown over the past year and look forward to more progress in 2022!
Learn more about our work by reading or downloading the report here or by clicking on the report cover,
These grants totaling $3,000 were provided in November 2021 to organizations working to increase respect for plants, encourage ethical behavior toward plants, and/or to support development of an effective movement toward these goals.
Grants of $500 each were provided to:
Center for Biological Diversity (Tucson, AZ) to support the Center's legal advocacy and monitoring efforts to save the endangered Tiehm's Buckwheat, a rare flowering plant that only exists across a few acres of rocky soil in Nevada, with most of its remaining population facing imminent threat from a mining company.
Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (Spokane, WA) to support creation of a training workshop to be held in early 2022 on the White Earth Rights of Manoomin law (recognizing Manoomin [wild rice] as possessing legal rights) and the associated recent court case, with the workshop focused on tribal attorneys as well as tribal members and their elected leaders.
Dogwood Alliance (Asheville, NC) to produce 4 episodes of Woods & Wilds: The Podcast, in collaboration with a Black, female-led media group, highlighting the deep connection to forests and nature we all share as a birthright, with stories focusing on times when people were inspired, healed, transformed, or even saved, by forests and nature; a portion of the grant funds will also be applied to online education to improve editing skills.
Earth Law Center (Boulder, CO) to host a roundtable with politicians in El Salvador (and other Latin American countries, as appropriate) on how to implement the legal rights of forests through specific standards as well as through the appointment of legal guardians to represent the rights and interests of forests.
Old-Growth Forest Network (Easton, MD) to cover printing costs for a poster that will provide information on the steps involved to save old-growth forests, to be distributed broadly in 2022 to all of Old-Growth Forest Network’s 5,000+ supporters and to others who request it.
WildEarth Guardians (Santa Fe, NM) to support a social media campaign to raise awareness and mobilize people about the plight of the Joshua tree, generating more visibility on the issue, by going toward hiring of a social media contractor with extensive expertise on social media platforms to lead this effort.
With your support, The Plant Initiative plans to continue to provide grants in 2022 to organizations working on behalf of plants!
Scholars and editors of The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence John Charles Ryan, Patricia Vieira and Monica Gagliano participated in a conversation on December 15, 2021 with moderator Laura Pustarfi, board member of The Plant Initiative, about plant thought, including what plants themselves think, and the varied and entangled relations between humans and plants. Questions from the audience followed the discussion.
Watch the video recording of this program here.
This free event was sponsored by The Plant Initiative and cosponsored by the Literary and Cultural Plant Studies Network and the CIIS Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion program.
The Plant Initiative was one of several sponsors of an online conference Toward a New Way of Being with Plants held June 17 - 18, 2021. Over 1,600 people worldwide registered for this free event which included more than 30 speakers! This conference explored human plant connections, including ethics in human treatment of plants, plant sentience and communication, and opportunities for developing more respectful and reciprocal relationships between humans and plants.
The conference agenda and listing of speakers, including board members of The Plant Initiative Laura Pustarfi and Paul Moss, can be found on the conference web site. Video recordings of the conference sessions are available free on the conference's YouTube channel.
This conference provided a forum for learning, discussion, and interaction among those interested in advancing the status and treatment of plants, with the goal that this collaboration will continue after the event. The Plant Initiative will play an active role in the follow up from this conference. Sign up for our e-mail list for updates!
The Plant initiative is pleased to be included as a Friend of the Journal by The Ecological Citizen, a peer-reviewed free-access online journal that is working for an ecological civilization. Issues are published twice a year and are full of articles promoting respectful relationship with all of Earth's diverse beings.
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