April 9th, 2008

Plant Blindness

Today, while reading the latest issue of Landscape Architecture (April 2008), in the "Design" column by W. Gary Smith and Gwen Stauffer, I came upon a discussion of the concept of "Plant Blindness" proposed by educators James Wandersee and Elisabeth Schussler. This concept asks why people in the U.S. are generally less interested in plants than in animals.

"They define plant blindness as the inability to see or notice the plants in one's own environment -- leading to the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs, the inability to appreciate the aesthetic and unique biological features of the life forms belonging to the plant kingdom, and the misguided, anthropocentric ranking of plants as inferior to animals, leading to the erroneous conclusion that they are unworthy of human consideration" (p. 26, ibid.)

The following list of symptoms of "Plant Blindness" were given:

-Failing to take notice of the plants in their daily life
-Thinking that plants are merely the backdrop for animal life
-Misunderstanding what kinds of matter and energy plants require to stay alive
-Overlooking the importance of plants to their daily affairs
-Failing to distinguish between the differing time scales of plant and animal activity
Lacking hands-on experiences in growing, observing, and identifying plants in their own geographic region
Failing to understand the basic plant science underlying nearby plant communities, including plant growth, nutrition, reproduction, and relevant ecological considerations
Lacking awareness that plants are central to a key biogeochemical cycle-- the carbon cycle
Being insensitive to the aesthetic qualities of plants and their structures-- especially with respect to their adaptations, co-evolution, colors, dispersal, diversity, growth habits, scents, sizes, sounds, spacing, strength, symmetry, tactility, tastes, and textures

The cure for plant blindness? "The cure may be right before our eyes in the natural and cultural landscapes that audiences experience every day but may never really see" (p. 32, ibid.).

No matter who you are, druid or not, the treatment of "plant blindness" can only enrich your experience of life...to be continued after a trip to the store!