“Plants should be considered the connecting link between the sun and the Earth. Without plants, in fact, the sun’s energy would not be transformed into the chemical energy that feeds life. That’s not all. Plants perform a fundamental and continuous labor of depollution by absorbing and degrading many of the contaminating compounds produced by humans.”
Like a pocket-Sized copy of the United States Constitution, The Nation of Plants is a slender volume of eight articles, each of which sets out an inalienable truth of the miraculous system of governance that rules plant life on Earth (and by extension, supports the only known life in the universe). In easily digestible language that touches lightly and frequently on scientific theory for support, Stefano Mancuso sets out to highlight the truly spectacular work that plants do.
In the very first Article of this new constitution, “The Earth shall be the common home of life. Sovereignty shall pertain to every living being,” Mancuso takes on the popular notion that the universe must be littered with life. If you were surprised by the election of Donald Trump in 2016, he argues, you should easily grasp that we all live in information bubbles. By virtue of the fact that we all reside on a planet that teems with life, we exist in a bubble that assumes life to be common, but no evidence has yet come to light to reinforce that perspective.
On the contrary, searching deeper and deeper into space, all we come up with are empty planets that lack the essential ingredient that leads to biodiversity: plants. It is plants that convert solar energy into all the myriad structures and forms that create this habitat that enables breathable air, drinkable water, and edible energy. As the architects of life, this text suggests, they might have further lessons to share with us on how best to continue ideal conditions for our own survival.
Mancuso neatly eviscerates the notion that man deserves to rule over all other life on Earth, in this writer’s view. Democratically speaking, he notes, plants far outstrip animals in numbers, so certainly we humans can claim no superiority there. And as for being somehow better at being alive, there again we have to bow down to horsetail grass, which is estimated to have survived 350 million years (so far). Therefore, he argues, we should remove ourselves from the peak of some kind of pyramid of life and recognize, not only that we have much to learn from our plant forebears, but that the pyramidal structures of which animals are so fond are in fact a handicap of our particular evolutionary needs and that they are inferior, evolutionarily, from “diffuse and decentralized, vegetable democracies.”
THE NATION OF PLANTS has already solved the issues of our age
In outlining the simple rules by which plants have designed life on this planet and allowed us to imagine ourselves their superiors, Mancuso points out that the answers to the questions of how to combat our own negative effects on the climate are right in front of us. It was plants who created this habitat for us in the first place, all we need to do is step back and respect their work. We must simply let them continue to clean up our messes and foster the conditions for life, as they naturally do through their own life cycles. Plants do not move, so they are forced to adapt more readily to the conditions where they are placed. In this fact of their existence is contained a simple lesson: growth must be limited by resources. Animals move and therefore don’t limit themselves to what is presently available, roaming in search of new sources of consumption. This has led to the unchallenged concept that economies must grow ever fatter to be successful. But plants?
“They reduce their size, become thicker or thinner, twist, curve, climb, crawl, modify the shape of their bodies, and stunt their own growth. They do everything necessary to keep their equilibrium with the environment as stable as possible.”
This slim manifesto should appeal to anyone who is searching for reasons to be hopeful about our self-made climate crisis. In this reviewer’s opinion, The Nation of Plants should also be required curriculum for anyone who makes decisions about governance of resources, whether they be leaders of nations, corporations, or work on a smaller scale. As Mancuso points out, a small handful of people are making the decisions for billions of lifeforms. In the opinion of this reviewer, it would be the least they could do to read this book.
For more information and to purchase this title, please visit the Penguin Randomhouse page for The Nation of Plants.
Images courtesy of NATION OF PLANTS Book