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Are plants intelligent? Can they solve problems, communicate, and navigate their surroundings? Or are they passive, incapable of independent action or social behavior? Philosophers and scientists have pondered these questions since ancient Greece, most often concluding that plants are unthinking and inert: they are too silent, too sedentary -- just too different from us. Yet discoveries over the past fifty years have challenged these ideas, shedding new light on the extraordinary capabilities and complex interior lives of plants.
In Brilliant Green, Stefano Mancuso, a leading scientist and founder of the field of plant neurobiology, presents a new paradigm in our understanding of the vegetal world. Combining a historical perspective with the latest in plant science, Mancuso argues that, due to cultural prejudices and human arrogance, we continue to underestimate plants. In fact, they process information, sleep, remember, and signal to one another -- showing that, far from passive machines, plants are intelligent and aware. Through a survey of plant capabilities from sight and touch to communication, Mancuso challenges our notion of intelligence, presenting a vision of plant life that is more sophisticated than most imagine.
Plants have much to teach us, from network building to innovations in robotics and man-made materials -- but only if we understand more about how they live. Part botany lesson, part manifesto, Brilliant Green is an engaging and passionate examination of the inner workings of the plant kingdom.
Financial support for the translation of this book has been provided by SEPS: Segretariato Europeo Per Le Pubblicazioni Scientifiche.
"Mancuso may be provocative, but he’s not alone and he hasn’t been for a long time."
"Mancuso advocates for a second Copernican revolution, of sorts. Just as medieval people had to concede that the stars and planets don't orbit Earth, we must accept that the living world doesn't revolve around us."
"Brilliant Green… [is a] timely, highly accessible summar[y] of fast-developing fields… Combine[s] a passion for plants and a desire to illustrate their largely unsung complexities with an appreciation of the burden of proof needed to persuade us of a world that contains chlorophyllic sentience."
"Mancuso and Viola blaze a trail of intrigue, to study the seemingly inaccessible, to fathom the unfathomable, to celebrate the essence of life on Earth....This book is nothing short of summer reading that broadens the soul."
San Francisco Book Review
"A brilliant fusion of historical and modern research, Brilliant Green is a quirky little book can be quickly read, yet it is captivating and eye-opening, and will make you stop and think. The authors’ fervor and wit jolt the reader out apathetic anthropocentrism and we awaken in the fascinating world of plant intelligence."
The Guardian's GrrlScientist
"Brilliant Green.. lays out the case for approaching plants as fellow intelligent life-forms... key insights to fields across the sciences, from botany to robotics."
"A short primer/manifesto on the history and science of the [plant intelligence movement]."
"...a compelling and fascinating case not only for plant sentience and smarts, but also plant rights."
"Read this book: it informs and excites the mind. Exuberantly translated from Italian by Joan Benham, Brilliant Green can be read in a sitting...an excellent work."
"...Mancuso, a leading scientist and founder of the field of plant neurobiology, presents a new paradigm in our understanding of the vegetal world."
"[Brilliant Green] is an interesting book about plant intelligence with amazing examples of how plants routinely interact with their surroundings."
"...an engaging and passionate examination of the inner workings of the plant kingdom"
Davie Mustangs See The World
"Slim and engaging."
"Fascinating...Written in a lively, accessible way, Brilliant Green will appeal to anyone who loves plants...and isn't that all of us?"
"Referring to ground-breaking scientific studies and historical perspectives, the authors shake up our views of the plant world—one that we are totally dependent on for oxygen and food, and one that we cannot afford to take for granted."
"[Brilliant Green] is, like the best science, the product of a powerful imagination, one with the ability to see the world from a completely fresh and unencumbered point of view—and to communicate that perspective to the rest of us. So put aside for a couple of hours your accustomed anthropocentrism, and step into this other, richer and more wonderful world. You won’t regret it, and you won’t emerge from it ever quite the same again."
From the foreword by Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," "The Botany of Desire," and other books
Chapter 1. The Root of the Problem
-Plants and the Great Monotheistic Religions
-The Plant World According to Writers and Philosophers
-The Fathers of Botany: Linnaeus and Darwin
-Humans Are the Most Evolved Species on the Planet. Or Are They?
-Plants: Always Second Fiddle
Chapter 2. The Plant: A Stranger
-Euglena Versus Paramecium, an Even Match
-Five Hundred Million Years Ago
-A Plant Is a Colony
-A Problem of Tempos
-Life Without Plants: Impossible
Chapter 3. The Senses of Plants
- . . . And Fifteen Other Senses!
Chapter 4. Communication in Plants
-Communication Inside the Plant
-Communication Between Plants
-Communication Between Plants and Animals
Chapter 5. Plant Intelligence
-Can We Speak of "Plant Intelligence"?
-What Can We Learn from Artificial Intelligence?
-Intelligence Unites, It Doesn’t Divide
-Charles Darwin and the Intelligence of Plants
-The Intelligent Plant
-Each Plant Is a Living Internet Network
-A Swarm of Roots
-The Aliens Are Here (Plant Intelligence As a Model for Understanding Extraterrestrial Intelligence)
Tuesday, May 17 from 8:30am-5:00pm.
This inspirational seminar will deliver the vision, knowledge and wisdom of four great thinkers. Their brilliance lies in combining fastidious research with artistic sensibility: communicating from the frontiers of their disciplines. Respectively, these scientists are challenging old paradigms. Collectively, by breaking the boundaries between science and art, they offer a powerful insight into natural processes that could change the way we understand, preserve and manage trees.
Speakers: Stefano Mancuso (plant neurobiologist and author of Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence), Francis Halle (botanist and plant morphologist), Monica Gagliano (plant cognitive ecologist), Howard Thomas (plant gerontologist). More details here.
Do plants have intelligence? Current advances in research shed new light on the remarkable interior life of plants. German forester Peter Wohlleben and Italian plant physiologist Stefano Mancuso explore the question of plant intelligence using biological evidence to challenge our common perception of plants and nature. Sharing intriguing new findings made in the forest and in the lab, these experts present new paradigms for our understanding of the vegetal world. Harvard’s distinguished historian of science, Janet Browne, moderates the discussion. A booksigning will follow the presentations.
Austrian Ministry of Economics and Science's Best Scientific Book of the Year 2016
This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the comments below.
For the OUTDOORSPERSON in your life:
Water is for Fighting Over...and Other Myths about Water in the West by John Fleck
Anyone who has ever rafted down the Colorado, spent a starlit night on its banks, or even drank from a faucet in the western US needs Water is for Fighting Over. Longtime journalist John Fleck will give the outdoors lover in your life a new appreciation for this amazing river and the people who work to conserve it. This book is a gift of hope for the New Year.
Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man by Jason Mark
Do you constantly find your friend waxing poetic about their camping tales and their intimate connection to the peaceful, yet mysterious powers of nature? Sounds like they will relate to Jason Mark’s tales of his expeditions across a multitude of American landscapes, as told in Satellites in the High Country. More than a collection of stories, this narrative demonstrates the power of nature’s wildness and explores what the concept of wild has come to mean in this Human Age.
What Should a Clever Moose Eat?: Natural History, Ecology, and the North Woods by John Pastor
Is the outdoorsperson in your life all dressed up in boots, parka, and backpack with nowhere to go? Looking for meaning in another titanium French press coffeemaker for the camp stove? What Should a Clever Moose Eat leaves the technogadgets behind and reminds us that all we really need to bring to the woods when we venture out is a curious mind and the ability to ask a good question about the natural world around us. Such as, why do leaves die? What do pine cones have to do with the shape of a bird’s beak? And, how are blowflies important to skunk cabbage? A few quality hours among its pages will equip your outdoor enthusiast to venture forth and view nature with new appreciation, whether in the North Woods with ecologist John Pastor or a natural ecosystem closer to home.
Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by Yoram Bauman
This holiday season, give your favorite climate-denier a passive aggressive “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” with The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change featuring self –described Stand-up Economist Yoram Bauman and award-winning illustrator Grady Klein. Give the gift of fun, entertaining basic understanding of what is, undeniably and not up for subjective debate, scientific fact!
For the HEALTH NUT in your life:
Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene by Emily Monosson
Give the health nut in your life the gift of understanding with Unnatural Selection. Your friends and family will discover how chemicals are changing life on earth and how we can protect it. Plus, they’ll read fascinating stories about the search for a universal vaccine, the attack of relentless bedbugs, and a miracle cancer drug that saved a young father’s life.
For the ADVOCATE in your life:
Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay by Sanderson, et. al
Need an antidote to the doom and gloom? Stressed-out environmental advocates will appreciate Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay. It’s a deep dive into one of the most important questions of our time: how can we create cities where people and nature thrive together? Prospects for Resilience showcases successful efforts to restore New York’s much abused Jamaica Bay, but its lessons apply to any communities seeking to become more resilient in a turbulent world.
Ecological Economics by Josh Farley and Herman Daly
Blow the mind of the advocate in your life with a copy of Ecological Economics by the godfather of ecological economics, Herman Daly, and Josh Farley. In plain, and sometimes humorous English, they’ll come to understand how our current economic system does not play by the same laws that govern nearly every other system known to humankind—that is, the laws of thermodynamics. Given recent financial and political events, there’s a message of hope within the book as it lays out specific policy and social change frameworks.
For the CRAZY CAT PERSON in your life:
An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
The cat lovers in your life will lose themselves in An Indomitable Beast, an illuminating story about the journey of the jaguar. This is the perfect book for any of your feline loving friends, whether they want to pursue adventure with the big cats of the wild, or stay home with a book and cup of tea.
For the GARDENER in your life:
Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes by Margie Ruddick
Give your favorite gardener an antidote to the winter blues. The lush photographs of Wild by Design, and inspirational advice on cultivating landscapes in tune with nature, transport readers to spectacular parks, gardens, and far-flung forests. This book is guaranteed to be well-thumbed and underlined by the time spring planting season arrives!
For the STUBBORN RELATIVE in your life:
Common Ground on Hostile Turf: Stories from an Environmental Mediator by Lucy Moore
For the person keeping the peace in your family this holiday season, the perfect gift is Common Ground on Hostile Turf, an inspiring how to guide demonstrating it is possible to bring vastly different views together. This book gives lessons learned on setting down at the table with the most diverse set of players and the journey they take to find common grounds and results. If your holiday dinner needs some mediation, look to the advice of author Lucy Moore.
Also consider: Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals by Susan Jacobson, Communicating Nature by Julia Corbett
For the HISTORY BUFF in your life:
The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities by Stephanie Meeks with Kevin C. Murphy
When it comes to the the future of our cities, the secret to urban revival lies in our past. Tickle the fancy of your favorite history buff by sharing The Past and Future City, which takes readers on a journey through our country's historic spaces to explain why preservation is important for all communities. With passion and expert insight, this book shows how historic spaces explain our past and serve as the foundation of our future.
For the BUSINESS PERSON in your life:
Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature by Mark Tercek
For the aspiring CEO in your life who drools at phrases like "rates of return" and "investment," share the gift of Nature's Fortune, an essential guide to the world's economic (and environmental) well-being.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.