I live in a concrete maze that boasts a few yards of curbed open space and calibrated greenery. High-rises clutter the view of sky; pigeons and mynahs rule the roofs. Urban wildlife often feels incongruous, surreal. A praying mantis sheltering from lashing rain makes the windowsill suddenly more meaningful, though that is not its purpose.
trees & plant life
From The New York Times: Scientist Monica Gagliano’s botanical research, which has broken boundaries in the field of plant behavior, indicate that plants are, to some extent, intelligent. Her experiments suggest that they can learn behaviors and remember them. Her work also suggests that plants can “hear” running water and even produce clicking noises, perhaps to communicate.
From The Atlantic: When Leuzinger saw the stump on a walk with fellow botanist Martin Bader, his head turned. He saw that even though it had no leaves, stems, or greenery of any kind, it did still contain living tissue—and when he knocked, it sounded different from deadwood. All appearances to the contrary, it’s still alive. But how?
In Richard Louv’s words: “Glenn Albrecht is among the most important eco-philosophers today. He is also a map-maker: he names the roads ahead, the dead-ends, the detours, and potential destinations. And, unlike so many scientists, he does so with a new language of emotions―those now emerging from the tragedy and the possibility of the Earth.”
“I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me…” Thus starts US Astronaut Don Pettit’s quasi-fictional account of ten days in the life of a plant growing on the International Space Station. Among other things, the plant expresses its growing awareness of people it interacts with, and the fact that they eat its ‘kind’.
The most disquieting thing wasn’t the disappearance of certain insect species; it was the deeper worry that a whole insect world might be quietly going missing, a loss of abundance that could alter the planet in unknowable ways. “We notice the losses,” says David Wagner. “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.” (New York Times)
Native American scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer tells the story of mosses, the first plants to develop the ability to live on land. Unlike other plants they can survive long periods of drought in a condition of dessication – dry, brittle, brown – then spring back to life as soon as a drop of rain hits
Stefany Ann Goldberg writes: Famous for his plant-response studies, J.C. Bose was also the first scientist to study inorganic matter the way a biologist examines a muscle or a nerve. Bose performed his plant experiments on rocks and metals, too. Remarkably, he found that the “non-living” responded when subjected to mechanical, thermal, and electrical stimuli.
From The Millions: When human leaders fail us as role models, we should look to animals, says Sy Montgomery. “I can tell you that teachers are all around to help you: with four legs or two or even eight. All you have to do is recognize them as teachers and be ready to hear their truths.”
From The Conversation: Are Indigenous and Western systems of knowledge categorically antithetical? Or do they offer multiple points of entry into knowledge of the world? As ways of knowing, both systems share important and fundamental attributes. There are also many cases where science and history are catching up with what Indigenous peoples have long known.
Peter Wohlleben, author of the best-selling ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’, explores the emotions and intelligence of animals in his new book. New scientific discoveries in this field have big moral implications, he says. A review and an excerpt, plus the video of an eye-opening talk by animal ethologist Jonathan Balcombe on the inner life of animals.
From Down to Earth: Kathalekan, in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, is a relic forest with Myristica swamp ecosystem. It has remained unchanged for over 100 million years. It’s spread across an area of 25 square kilometres. Today this ancient forest is under severe threat from human interventions in the region, including a proposed highway.
From McSweeney’s: Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov collected more seeds from around the world than any other person in history. Yet the plant explorer, who endeavoured to end famine, starved to death in one of Stalin’s gulags. A tribute to a scientific pioneer who foresaw the need for preserving the world’s seed heritage almost a century ago.
The Wishing Tree is an inspirational film that tells the story of five children in a hill-station who come together to save their ‘wishing tree’ from being cut by vested interests. According to director Raajaysh Chetwal, “It gently nudges people to think about, and restore, the organic and utterly magical relationship between humans and nature.”
We tend to think that nature and cities are polar opposites. Delhi’s steadily worsening ‘airpocalypse’ only reinforces this binary. But this wasn’t always so. In her book ‘Nature in the City’, Harini Nagendra takes a deep dive into Bangalore’s ecological history, going way back in the past to the 6th century CE, with surprising results.
From The Guardian: Insects are multitudinous beyond our imagining, and have triumphed for hundreds of millions of years, in every habitat. This makes all the more alarming the great truth now dawning upon us: insects as a group are in terrible trouble and the remorselessly expanding human enterprise has become too much, even for them.
From The Better India: Ashok Sonule of Kolhapur has left his harvest-ready jowar crop remain on his land for birds to feed on. His logic is simple. “Birds and animals have suffered a lot this year, with lakes drying up and crops wilting. There are few fields in this area the birds can call home.”
From Infinite Windows/Eartha Mag: 23 years ago, the passionate conservationist couple Pamela and Anil Malhotra bought 55 acres of land in Coorg, which they have since converted into a beautiful forest of over 300 acres. This is the story of how SAI Sanctuary came to host animals like the Bengal Tiger, Sambhar and Asian Elephants.
Nature has always inspired art, but in our own age of ecological crisis, it’s taking on a special significance for many contemporary artists. This series looks at path-breaking artists and works that reflect this growing awareness. Here, watch artist-filmmakers Friedrich van Schoor and Tarek Mawad turn trees, mushrooms, and even toads into pulsing, projection-mapped creatures.
From Scroll.in: Honeybees, which play a vital role in pollinating food crops, are declining at an alarming rate in India. It is not just pesticides that are contributing to their decline. Ironically, it might be the very efforts to promote bees in India that could be leading to a further decline in their diversity and prevalence.