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The scientist who listens to plants: “New Frontiers” –

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From Leonardo Cavo

Monica Gagliano: «I have demonstrated empirically that I am able to learn and remember past events, and to show and share their intelligence. In a sense, we are also becoming more and more vegetables.”

Monica Gagliano is one of the researchers who has radically changed the way we think about life. Do plants talk? Are they talking to us? What about the plant in us? A professor of ecology in Australia, she hits the Italian market with a worldwide bestseller that Nottetempo has just published titled This is how the plant spoke. If Stefano Mancuso, who has worked with Gagliano for a long time, teaches us the intelligence of plants, then through this book we learn something about their sensitivity and affection. Something revolutionary: The question is not whether plants can communicate, but whether they can listen to us. The literature on plant intelligence, or on metaphysics that reconsiders it as a complex subjectivity, seems to be proliferating.

What does this research add to the discussion?

Science adds. The science of plant intelligence. My work focuses on communicating plants, especially sound, but also – and perhaps above all – their cognitive abilities, because it demonstrates empirically that plants are able to learn and remember past events. I am not referring to the passage of the seasons or the reaction to circadian rhythms (a sunflower follows the movement of the sun and remembers which direction it turns), but I am referring to learning new experiences, which are not necessarily (or immediately) relevant to life. , but a plant can learn if it looks at them that way. I think one of the elements that characterizes my book is the hesitant union, at least at first, between science and pure metaphysics. I say hesitant because science has its own symbol and metaphysics is not a part of it. However, when speaking of the subjectivity of plants, it is imperative that we understand who the actor is, and speaking of non-human intelligence, that we understand who these other intelligent people are who appear and share their intelligence. So I want to push the boundaries toward a very new kind of science that I still don’t even know how to define, but this combines empirical science with metaphysics – the soul, we might say – and makes them talk. Perhaps this is the new frontier.”

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In the book he states, “The experiment on the reef sparked an inner conflict within me, prompted by the realization that, for me, there was no relevant scientific case that justified killing another organism. This resulted in the problem of how to conduct my scientific research without massacres.
Here, what are the ethical limits in the scientific search for life?

It’s a huge question. What do we mean by ethics? What do we mean by moral boundaries? There is not only the human being, the group or the society that makes certain moral laws, but there are also other agents, other non-human participants. Scientific research is not done by humans on life, but is done by humans (sometimes) with life. And if this happens in cooperation – within the relational nature – then life must have the right to speak. He must be able to say his word. When I started working with plants, for example, at the end of the experiment I gave them as a gift. Co-creation is what we call science. And I believe that modern science, the daughter of the Enlightenment, still has a colonial image of itself. It’s all about the conquest. We talk about conquering the limits of what is acceptable. But if it is not about conquering boundaries, but about co-creating with life using the code of conduct in a relational way, then the code is constantly evolving with life rather than with life. It is an opportunity for science and we should appreciate exploration within the relational area. What lies outside of it is bad science.”

The idea of ​​listening to plants is repeated several times in the text, and appears to be a complex attempt to reunite mysticism, biography, and scientific thought. But is it really possible to “listen to a plant” in everyday life?

“It’s not just an idea. Listening to plants is possible and it’s really nice. I’ve listened to a lot of plants, especially during lockdown, and that was very reassuring. It’s a practice that can be cultivated like meditation, yoga, running. It’s obviously very layered, but on a basic level.” It is enough to have a microphone and a small recording device; in the laboratory, with the most advanced equipment, the definition is higher, but at the elementary level you just need to find a nice big tree (because this is easier) and record with a microphone. And so, starting from there, spend time with this The other and an extraordinary connection is established with it, which then causes aspects of us that have been dormant or silent for a long time to open up. Then who knows. If you’ve been practicing calming your mind, you may not need it anymore – technology is just an extension of our bodies. Maybe at some point It would be enough to just sit and listen to the plant. I know everything sounds a little hippie, but it’s not at all. It’s a very concrete practice, to the point where I get many comments from people who have read the book: “I do too and this plant speaks to me.” The amazing number of people Especially those who listen to plants as a daily practice. The taboo and the shame that surrounds it must be removed, because it is part of our human being here and in its relationship with others.”

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What does “sow in us” mean?

“It literally means the plant that is within us. And I mean in a very deep physical way – the body we made, the breath that moves us and nourishes our bodies. We have this illusion, the very modern and western perspective, which is to inhabit bodies sealed by the outside world. Instead, our bodies are systems open and permeable interacting with the outside through the incorporation of others, in this case plants. If we want to move towards a metaphysical meaning, through certain processes that I talk about in the book, we integrate the essence, spirit or spirit that is in the plant. In this sense, then, we become collective , within the psychological world in which the body is constantly being made, reshaped and invented by many. So the question arises: What is man? Is not man a group? Then there is the metaphysical aspect of the body, which is revived by a spirit that is not just a human being. The plant in us is a very important component of what It makes us human, and yet it seems to be the most neglected and forgotten. We breathe plants, we eat plants, in a sense we become more and more vegetables.”

It is a very personal book, in which human life is completely rethought. Can we understand plants with scientific rationality, or do we need a final act to question anthropocentrism? So learn to think of vegetables
“I am a little confused by your question because it seems to me that we can do it either scientifically and rationally or by abandoning anthropocentrism, i.e. the two are mutually exclusive. In my view, scientific rationality is only part of a method: it can be a very powerful method, so why get rid of it?” In my view, we can only be anthropocentric: the human being is the center of our experience, because we are human. So this is the perspective and experience through which we experience the world. However, it does not mean that we cannot empathize with each other. When centralization is used Humanity as a weapon By the colonial agenda, we differentiate between man and the rest. We have conceptually placed hierarchies outside our world – the animal kingdom – and clearly above all other life forms. We have chosen ourselves as the standard for all other species. But in this way how do we solve the dilemma of knowing the other This is impossible.The last act of questioning anthropocentrism, in my opinion, is a difference of quality: understanding that we have human experiences and that this limits us from our human perspective, but instead of using it as a weapon against others, we should treat ourselves with humility. Then the rest of the world will open up to us and welcome us back home. Because in my experience he was not expecting anything else.”

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Oct 30, 2022 (change Oct 30, 2022 | 14:58)

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