THE MOTHER WHO TAKES CARE OF US WHILE WE SLEEP
Not long ago I was fortunate to attend the conference of one of the greatest of neurobiology based on his new book, The Future is Vegetable.
Stéfano Mancuso founder of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology in Florence. He is also like many others a popularizer, who by spreading his knowledge around the world like seeds on a windy day, gets new ways of conceiving nature to grow in us or, at least, to approach it.
I think that when you love something, you have the need to share it, and if that thing you love is in danger, you have the need to shout it. I vaguely remember the illusion with which I entered because it went into the background for arriving a few minutes late. What still lingers in me is the disappointment with which I left.
Lecture on the plant world in Malaga? work day at seven in the afternoon? I did not expect more than 20 people. Luckily I was wrong. His contributions had the entire room in an expectant silence for two short hours.
We begin with the fact that 99% of the biomass is formed by plants. Wow! I thought that the human being was the majority, and it is going to be that what happens is that we make a lot of noise, too much I would say.
Mancuso maintains the premise that “The Future is Vegetal”. And he dedicates this talk to justify us his point of view with several hypotheses that mature our perception about the ‘Green’ world.
Affirms that our evolution must occur hand in hand with the plant world and justifies us by analyzing different aspects of our ‘Human’ world and confronting it to plants.
The first obstacle we can find when comparing ourselves to the plant world is the false belief that plants do not have sensitivity and that they do not recognize what is happening around them.
Unlike the animals, the sensibility of the plants is much more delicate and they perceive the danger with much more advanced, since, being unable to flee, they tend to modify their condition to face climatic changes, predators …, or to perpetuate their species.
An example is the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Each seed has its own parachute, which opens or closes depending on the humidity. If we observe, on a rainy day all are closed. This little plant does not care that the seeds do not fly, and because of the water, they fall near the mother plant. Not only would they be future competitors, but they would not develop optimally.
We also tend to believe that plants are not perceivers of their environment. Our speaker justified this with several experiments done in his laboratory, one of them consented to place a stick near a bean plant, which at first this little plant could not reach. Of course, he did not hit where the stick was; it was not necessary, she alone began to lengthen towards him, forcing her stem and beginning to form a hook at her end until she reached the support she needed to survive. And since he knows that this is a stick, he does not know it, but if he is aware of what surrounds him; In fact, they put a bean plant inside a white cylinder, and inside it, they drew with a pen inside the cylinder, a vertical black line. Well, because of its photoreceptors, the little plant perceives a break in the luminosity and leans towards the black line with the intention of getting entangled in it.
To make us see the usefulness that the plant world has over our current fields of study, Mancuso referred to a quote by Leonardo Da Vinci: “If you have to build a machine that moves underwater, study the fish, if we want a machine that flies, study the birds … ” Well, if what we want is a machine that explores the soil, what better to study the root system of a plant.
Said and done! the research team of which Mancuso was a part, collaborated with the European Space Agency (ESA) in a project to design space probes that could study soils. Even studying dangerous areas for human beings such as environmental pollution, mapping of minefields … all this has its origin in the seed of Erodium, which penetrates the soil with its rotating movements until reaching 20cm deep.
Thus a new generation of robots called planetoids is about to become part of our lives.
Little by little this team has been convincing the European Union to invest in the planetoid project.
It is even expected that in the future these will reach the field of medicine. They have already put their eyes on an endoscope to access the brain; since the problem with current endoscopes is that they are not thin enough to properly follow the convolutions of the brain. This endoscope plant model, like the root of a plant, has the potential to grow until it reaches the area to be intervened.
This is why it would be good to take the plants a little more seriously and study them as models of the future if only because of the insignificance they have on Earth for six hundred million years.
Perhaps the fact that we ignore them is that we see ourselves so different from them:
. Plants do not have organs. What makes the functions of organs in them have it distributed throughout the body. Thanks to it they survive. The organs are weak points, once the organ is attacked, the whole organism fails and the plant will die. On the other hand, important parts of them can detach and survive.
. They do not have a model of organs and functions that obey a brain. On the contrary that we have organized our societies towards a hierarchical model. With the exception of the internet, a symbol of modernity, it is based on a decentralized model of control similar to the plant world.
Mancuso diagnoses hierarchical organization along with his bureaucracy as absolute evil. He gives as an example Peter’s not-so-curious Paradox: “In any hierarchical organization, any member ascends the hierarchy until he finds his optimum level of incompetence.” An individual enters an organization at the lowest level and if he is good at it, he ascends to a higher level. And so on until it reaches a level where it is no longer good. What is happening with this individual? It does not ascend anymore. He stays at the level where he is incompetent.
Although my personal opinion is that it would be a consolation for this to happen in our public organizations, where most of the incompetent high officials are placed on the hand.
He pleads for the democracy of the plants whose key is in the knowledge, and only through him, to be able to arrive at this utopia to entangle the society in a vegetal feeling; to the point of relating to us as a community of equals that is obliged to coexistence strategies to survive.
Our problem today is that humans, in general, still find it easier to compete than to live together.
And after all this explosion of attractive information, I judge myself asking myself, why am I surprised by Mancuso’s contributions? Without the plants, we would not exist. All of life we have been accompanied and cared for; and how much do we know of them who have dedicated our knowledge and professions to other subjects?
Nature protects us while the human being destroys it plunged into a deep sleep of ignorance.
She is the mother who takes care of us while we “sleep”.