Every week, we share plant love stories in this space. This project began as a collaboration between conservation scientists who wanted to celebrate the connections between people and plants. Our careers are built on millions of observations of plant traits, or measurements of their seeds, or counts of their pollen. We spend weeks and months writing up academic journal articles that often flatten the touch and smell of plants into numbers, variables, plots, and transects; the figures are points and boxplots that elide the delicate petals or intricate twists of roots we studied. We love our research subjects (well, maybe not the invasive ones), but we also love to eat, and smell, and climb, and share them.
This project began as a kind of escape from academic journal writing, but this week we are excited to present a plant love story from the pages of the peer-reviewed journal Plants, People, Planet. We wrote a letter to the editor for the journal's special issue, 'Standing in the shadows of plants: new perspectives on plant blindness.' When we first began Plant Love Stories, we talked amongst ourselves about our discomfort with the popular term 'plant blindness'. And while we intentionally omitted the term from our website, we never shared the story behind this decision. Here is the story: We do not want to “cure plant blindness” we want to grow plant love. (click for the full text of our letter)
We have a duty to conserve plants for the health of current and future generations. To do that, we, as a community of scientists, need to move plants from the background and into the foreground of people's hearts and minds. Effective movements need a clear, unifying rallying cry. We have made a decision not to use “curing plant blindness” as ours. Instead, we would like to encourage an honest and inclusive discussion about the disenfranchising and exclusionary term “plant blindness.”
...Plant Love Stories values a diversity of experiences with plants. An appreciation of plants is not just about seeing plants, it can encompass all of our senses and emotions. Our collection of stories are also about smelling plants like milkweeds, prairie dropseed, and allergy trees; hearing plants that have funny voices and divulging secrets to our cacti; tasting fruits like tomatoes, mangoes, and lemons and leaves like garlic mustard; feeling the texture of plants by rubbing dandelions under our chins or scraping our legs as we wade through Juncus marshes. Our relationships with plants can be a vehicle for discovering deep personal insights, forming lifelong relationships with other humans, getting through serious illness, and remembering those we have lost. We believe that everyone has a Plant Love Story in their lives, even if they do not think they do. We do not share these stories to “cure” or “prevent” or “stop” anything. Rather, we bring attention to these emotional relationships that already exist. We choose not to root ourselves in metaphors that assume that all people experience the world in the same way; we hope others will consider this position as well.