I love reading books about environmental issues as environmentalism is a big passion of mine. When I first saw The Nation Of Plants I was intrigued. Could we as humans really improve our situation by adopting the strategies of plants? It sounds absurd, yet author Stefano Mancuso believes we can. To demonstrate this, he has written The Nation of Plants as a manifesto for change towards a better future.
“In this playful yet informative manifesto, a leading plant neurobiologist presents the eight fundamental pillars on which the life of plants—and by extension, humans—rests.
Even if they behave as though they were, humans are not the masters of the Earth, but only one of its most irksome residents. From the moment of their arrival, about three hundred thousand years ago—nothing when compared to the history of life on our planet—humans have succeeded in changing the conditions of the planet so drastically as to make it a dangerous place for their own survival. The causes of this reckless behavior are in part inherent in their predatory nature, but they also depend on our total incomprehension of the rules that govern a community of living beings. We behave like children who wreak havoc, unaware of the significance of the things they are playing with.
In The Nation of Plants, the most important, widespread, and powerful nation on Earth finally gets to speak. Like attentive parents, plants, after making it possible for us to live, have come to our aid once again, giving us their rules: the first Universal Declaration of Rights of Living Beings written by the plants. A short charter based on the general principles that regulate the common life of plants, it establishes norms applicable to all living beings. Compared to our constitutions, which place humans at the center of the entire juridical reality, in conformity with an anthropocentricism that reduces to things all that is not human, plants offer us a revolution.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
The Nation of Plants is a fairly short book, and I read it over two bath sessions. Each chapter focuses on a different part of Mancuso’s manifesto, and again is a short read. I liked this about the book – it makes it easy to read in short bursts or all in one go. The writing style is easy to read and translation by Gregory Conti is excellent. I felt that some parts were perhaps too scientifically worded for those that aren’t working in the field (I did have to look a couple of words up) but generally it was easy to understand. Books about environmental issues can have this issue due to their scientific nature so this wasn’t much of a problem.
Marcuso’s argument is interesting – we should look to plants to solve our problems, instead of doing the same human thing we always do that inevitably fails. As he details each part of the manifesto he uses plant-based problem-solving to show where we fall short and how leafier ways may benefit us. I learnt so much from reading it, from some interesting stats around climate change (and the damage that we’ve caused) to the evolutionary purposes behind survival techniques that humans and plants have adopted. Marcuso also details some quite ridiculous moments in history where humanity’s inability to consider the consequences have resulted in huge environmental errors. These were particularly interesting to read about, and only strengthen his case.
I would have liked more from the learning side of things though. Whilst adequate, I felt that there could have been more information on specific techniques that plants use. Marcuso does write about this, however I felt he could have gone into much more detail. A longer read certainly wouldn’t have been off-putting given how short the book is already! This could also have added even more weight to his arguments. It also could draw in those that maybe aren’t so environmentally passionate but have an interest in plants and biology.
The book has a good structure though, and each part of the manifesto is well thought-out. I found myself agreeing with pretty much all of it. Interestingly there weren’t any comments on animal agriculture. This surprised me, given that it is our biggest contribution to CO2 emissions (main focus of the book). I would have liked to have at least seen this mentioned. Marcuso is correct though – plants can reverse much of the damage we’ve done, and we should be utilising them. And, deeper than that, they may also hold the key to future approaches we should take. After all, they’ve been on this planet far longer than any of us and are more prevalent. So they’re kind of the experts, right?
The thing I loved most about the book is that it’s so motivating for change. It’s laid out simply, and shows pretty obviously what we need to do. Much change needs to be led by governments, which is frustrating, but the public can help push that. It’s made me consider my relationship with plants and how I could contribute to increasing their existing… Volunteering with planting initiatives or growing more outside plants of my own, for example. It’s also got me thinking more about my own CO2 emissions and how I can reduce these further. And that’s the main thing – if more people that read The Nation of Plants, and other similar books about environmental issues, then there will be more motivation for change.
Although I did have a couple of issues with it, I really enjoyed The Nations of Plants. It’s informative and current, with the potential to inspire readers to act. I feel like plants and their benefits are more on my radar now, as are CO2 emissions. I’m already fairly eco-conscious but I’ve certainly slipped in the last couple of years, however reading this was just what I needed to get fully back onto the wagon. If you want to learn more about how plants can help with climate change then this has to be on your reading list!
“Stefano Mancuso is the Director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology (LINV) in Florence, Italy, a founder of the International Society for Plant Signaling and Behavior, and a professor at the University of Florence. His books and papers have been published in numerous international magazines and journals, and La Repubblica newspaper has listed him among the twenty people who will change our lives.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
What books about environmental issues have you read? IS this one you would read? Comment below, and don’t forget to like and pin! You can read other posts about environmentalism and sustainability here: