Plant Intelligence, Rights & Ethics - A conversation with Alessandra Viola
Join Alessandra Viola, co-author of Brilliant Green: The Surprising Science of Plant Intelligence and of her new book Flower Power (pending in English translation) in a conversation about plant intelligence, plant rights, and plant ethics with moderator Paul Moss, executive director of The Plant Initiative.
There will be time for questions from the audience following the discussion. This free program will be livestreamed with a link to be sent to participants before the event and will also be recorded and available for viewing online afterwards.
This free online networking and community-building event will provide an opportunity for those interested in exploring new and existing ways of being with plants that are respectful of both humans and plants. After a brief welcome and introduction, attendees will be introduced for several minutes to the new free Hylo networking tool with a special interactive web site set up for those interested in the human-plant connection - a space for sharing active research, collaborations, art, and any forms of humans and plant relations. This page will be active after the event as well, allowing for future collaboration and community building.
Following the intro to the Hylo plant networking site, the live interactive networking will begin. Attendees will be randomly sorted into a series of Zoom breakout rooms consisting of three participants each, which will each last for 13 minutes. This will provide you with an opportunity to get to know more people and to talk about your connections with plants. We will provide suggested discussion questions to help guide the small group conversations.
After 13 minutes, participants will be randomly assigned to another breakout room to allow you to meet additional people. There will be three sequential 13-minute breakout sessions in the program, each including three participants, allowing each participant to meet as many as 6 people with common interests. There will be a final brief wrap up as a large group.
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 November 2023 e-newsletter which was sent on November 15, 2023.
To subscribe to the e-newsletter, just visit our home page and enter your e-mail address on the form on that 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 is posting podcast episodes on our YouTube channel.
Our third episode, posted on October 13, 2023, features a wonderful conversation with Mari Margil of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights and Plant Initiative board member Sue Fager about the Rights of Nature.
These grants totaling $6,500 were provided in October 2023 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 to protect Florida’s endangered ghost orchids, which are being rapidly wiped out due to habitat loss, poaching, and a changing climate, with the grant supporting litigation and advocacy for this plant and the swamp ecosystems where it lives.
Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (Spokane, WA) to support the Center’s work with Tribal Bands in Minnesota to protect the Rights of Nature, including the rights of manoomin (wild rice), by contracting with an Ojibwe attorney who will conduct legal research and legislative drafting involving the White Earth Band and other Tribal Bands.
Earth Law Center (Durango, CO) to create a model law concerning the rights of culturally significant plant species, which would be uploaded to the Earth Law Portal hub, including draft model text that can serve as a starting point for any community, NGO, or government looking to recognize the rights of plant species.
Fungi Foundation (Brooklyn, NY) to facilitate the Foundation’s participation in the 2023 More Than Human Rights (MOTH) Conference in Chile through covering essential travel and accommodation expenses, which will help to foster more profound integration of fungal conservation into the broader Rights of Nature movement, as well as to amplify awareness and advocacy for the symbiotic relationship between fungi and plants thereby strengthening the nexus between fungi and plant advocacy.
Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (San Francisco, CA) to support GARN's work to protect the Amazonia Shihuahuaco tree in Peru, which faces imminent extinction, with GARN’s International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature raising the alert for violation of the rights of this tree and calling for the Peruvian government to update the CITES list so that its timber extraction can be regulated or prohibited.
The Kerulos Center for Nonviolence (Jacksonville, OR) to promote respect for plants through developing a four-part webinar tentatively entitled Plant Voices: Guides to Understanding Nonviolent Living which would be scheduled for 2024, as well as creating a short educational video illustrating how vegans can put respect for plant agency and sovereignty into practice in everyday living and activism.
The Land Institute (Salina, KS) to support the Institute's foundational work in perennial grain crop research and education, which furthers the transition to diverse, polyculture cropping systems that hold the potential to bring grain crop agriculture to a level of ecological function on par with native grasslands and other natural ecosystems, sustaining human and plant needs within an ecospheric context.
Native Seeds/SEARCH (Tucson, AZ) to support the distribution of free packets of rare and endangered native crop seed varieties to Indigenous individuals and families living in or belonging to tribes from the US Southwest Region and/or northwest Mexico through the Native American Seed Request Program, which helps to conserve and promote the arid-adapted crop diversity of the Southwest in support of sustainable farming and food security.
Old-Growth Forest Network (Easton, MD) to help support the creation of a Choices in Forest Management guide, which will educate forest owners on the different forest management practices they can prescribe to their woodlands, including describing management options that quality a forest for recognition in the Old-Growth Forest Network, with the grant helping to support costs of researching, designing, editing and printing the guide.
Re:wild (Austin, TX) to protect Jamaica’s critically endangered Grey Birch of which there are believed to be fewer than 50 individuals left, with the grant helping to support costs associated with mapping and recording the locations of the trees, contributing to the ultimate goal of developing a species conservation action plan with local stakeholders.
Seacology (Berkeley, CA) in support of Seacology's seagrass project on Sucia Island in Washington State, which aims to replant .12 acres of native eelgrass while including Indigenous youth in eelgrass education and long-term restoration, with the funds helping to cover the expense of collecting seeds and storing them over the winter.
WildEarth Guardians (Santa Fe, NM) in support of WildEarth Guardians' Forest Fungi campaign that is working to bring forward the importance of mycorrhizae in forest resiliency, and ensure that the US Forest Service adopts policies and practices that restore and protect the mutualistic associations of fungal species in forest ecosystems.
The WILD Foundation (Boulder, CO) to help provide permaculture planning and implementation support to the 15 communities living within the Yawanawa Indigenous territory in the state of Acre, Brazil, with the grant specifically covering the cost of a permaculture expert and plan with one of the communities, which can lead to increased protection of the rainforest as Yawanawa communities actively participate in traditional, sustainable cultivation practices.
With your support, The Plant Initiative plans to continue to provide grants in 2024 to organizations working on behalf of plants!
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,
The Plant Initiative presented a special online conversation with authors Paco Calvo and Natalie Lawrence on "Understanding Plant Intelligence" on April 19, 2023.
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.
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.
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.