Every one of us is (consciously or unconsciously) living in an essential and morally undefined symbiosis with plants that we functionally cannot fully understand yet (Kallhoff, Di Paola and Schörgenhumer, 2018). Besides the foregone physical and psychological benefits from engagement with nature, mostly every living creature is affecting plants and is being affected by them (Kallhoff, Di Paola and Schörgenhumer, 2018). However, our perception of them is limited in terms of seeing plants as living creatures (Mancuso, 2018), which might be in turn caused by a lack of knowledge of plants themselves and the reason for disconnection to nature in general.
Because there are literally no simple verbs that describe each oft he incredible senses of plants individually, such as we there are for human and animal senses (e.g. seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and feeling), authors and scientists have developed very different ways to communicate this information. Some describe plant life and its abilities in purely mechanical terms, while others are trying to create a new paradigm in which plant sentience is accepted and valued rather than scorned by anthropomorphising them to bring this meaningful information across to the wider society. This technique of anthropomorphising is mostly seen critically. There is an ongoing disagreement over whether certain things should or should not be said when introducing the complexity of plants to the wider society, but less discussion about the plants itself and how we treat them as living creatures.
By proposing plant abilities in an online survey with 109 participants, I gained evidence for the insights of the project. First of all, almost half of the participants did not know about the abilities and did change or may yet change their mind about plants after receiving information. Getting this information is already a success in people seeing plants differently. Secondly, many of the participants did not only create a new interest, but they also comment on their new perception with a positive behaviour change towards plants in the future. And last but not least some people pointed out the fundamental problem, the issue of the disagreement of the communication.
Plants do not have a nose, eyes or tongues to taste, see and smell as human and animals do, but they also lack individual words that describe these senses of plants to the wider public. Saying “plants sense” for all of the senses is reducing these amazing abilities all to the same level. This might be the reason we still see plants as passive and static creatures. However, closing the knowledge gap regarding the senses of plants and visualisation of their abilities could facilitate people in seeing the complexity of these organisms endowed with sensing capabilities, a particular form of intelligence, and unparalleled adaptive skills. This could increase respect and different treatment methods towards them. In general, therefore, it seems that a significant perception change may be warranted in light of this recent research.
By considering an effective outcome of the project in reality, and integration of the insights, one logical solution in the idea development was selected. The aim was to increase empathy of plants among the public by creating new vocabulary and visualisations that equates plant senses without making false comparisons. To finalise the idea, a collaborative design thinking workshop was undertaken.
All suggestions of new words for plant senses came from this workshop, and have been selected by plant scientists at the University of Leeds, and the final word selection was made via an online public vote. The result should open up a new approach for education, resulting in involving ethics towards plants, being self-sustaining, cost-effective and feasible.
Talking plant sense is an awareness campaign that promotes the appreciation of plants, their abilities and senses through the creation of new words (inlux, phytact, chemse and pervibe) and visual communication. A better understanding of the senses of plants and visualisation of their abilities could facilitate people in new educational evidence, seeing plants from a new perspective and increase plant literacy and ethical awareness.