As Plants See It
A Plea for a Plant-based Planet
A story of courage and difficult decisions made in the nick of time
Without plants, animal life on earth cannot exist. Were plants to disappear, the food chains, deprived of oxygen and nutrition, would immediately collapse. And yet they remain a blind spot for the 21st century human.
If anything, our behaviour today demonstrates a deep ignorance regarding our precarious dependence, while plants in their creative resilience have managed to weather five global extinctions. Now that we face the sixth extinction, at our own hands, who can save us? In As Plants See It, biologist, philosopher and essayist Arjen Mulder flips perspectives to see the world as plants do.
Though we both form part of the same life process on Earth, a plant’s priorities are radically different from those of a human. Everything that is obvious and important to us, holds little or no importance or even interest to plants. The opposite is also true: that which is unimportant to humans is crucial to plants. Plants could not care less about the evolutionary ‘struggle for life’. They survive precisely by working together and creating room for one another. Plants create life on their own, converting something as elusive as light into food, growing and reproducing with an internal logic at odds with the violent competition animals and humans find themselves entangled in.
In his clear and precise style, Mulder brings us the ‘school of plants’. The first and only requisite for admission is the decision that life is worth living. Plants demand that we view the world and human achievements differently, they instruct a solidarity with other living creatures. In order to understand plants as plants do, Mulder argues that we should not be killing them. He aligns himself with the natural philosophers from ancient Greece and argues for a new poetic biology based on protecting life rather than destroying it.
Equally inspired and critical, As Plants See It is an inventive treatise that fuses the biological with the philosophical, the personal with the scientific. In it, we see Mulder searching once again for the mystery of life, a journey he described in his award-winning essay collection What is Life as: ‘Life is what gives us value in a completely indifferent universe. That’s where our quest begins and ends.’