Plants are intelligent. Plants deserve rights. Plants are like the
Internet – or more accurately the Internet is like plants. To most of us
these statements may sound, at best, insupportable or, at worst, crazy.
But a new book, Brilliant Green: the Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence,
by plant neurobiologist (yes, plant neurobiologist), Stefano Mancuso
and journalist, Alessandra Viola, makes a compelling and fascinating
case not only for plant sentience and smarts, but also plant rights.
For centuries Western philosophy and science largely viewed animals
as unthinking automatons, simple slaves to instinct. But research in
recent decades has shattered that view. We now know that not only are
chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants thinking, feeling and
personality-driven beings, but many others are as well. Octopuses can
use tools, whales sing, bees can count, crows demonstrate complex
reasoning, paper wasps can recognise faces and fish can differentiate
types of music. All these examples have one thing in common: they are
animals with brains. But plants don’t have a brain. How can they solve
problems, act intelligently or respond to stimuli without a brain?
Beech Tree, on the North Downs near Dorking, Surrey, UK.
Photograph: Derek Croucher
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