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December 21, 2020
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More Than A Green Background

There’s an odd bit of news I find heartening. Thanks to the pandemic, house plants are our new best friends.  The millennial obsession that turned succulents and fiddle leaf figs into viral hashtags is no longer just a home decor trend. Pandemic plants are everywhere. 

There's plenty of research on the psychological benefits of tending plants. In her new book, "The Well-Gardened Mind," psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith notes prisoners who are given the chance to grow plants are less likely to re-offend, elderly people who garden tend to live longer, and gardening helps people recover from stress, depression, trauma and addiction.

When it comes to the pandemic though, I wonder if there isn't something else going on as well. What if, while facing an existential threat and unprecedented social isolation, humans intuitively and collectively turned to some of the oldest species on earth – our green kinfolk?  Because as different as they may seem, that's exactly what they are: relatives.  

This week's show, "Plants As Persons," is part of our ongoing Kinship Project – a partnership with the Chicago-based Center for Humans and Nature, with support from the Kalliopeia Foundation.  It features an emerging group of botanists, ecologists and plant scientists who challenge us to stop looking at plants as mere green background, and to think of them instead as persons – intelligent living beings who just might have something to teach us.  


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Guided by Plant Voices

Plants are intelligent beings with profound wisdom to impart—if only we know how to listen. And Monica Gagliano knows how to listen.
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We've Forgotten How To Listen To Plants

Robin Wall Kimmerer (left) and Anne Strainchamps (right)
Emerging science in everything from forest ecology to the microbiome is confirming that our relationship with plants and animals is deep. Ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer also draws on Native knowledge to explain our intimate relationships with plants.
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We Share This World With Plants. What Do We Owe Them?

lonely plant
Once you acknowledge that plants are intelligent and sentient beings, moral questions quickly follow. Should they have rights? How can we think of plants as "persons"? Plant scientist Matt Hall sorts out these ideas with Steve.
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