Kids Walk to Dunkin

Connecticut Parents Arrested for Letting Kids, Ages 7 and 9, Walk to Dunkin’ Donuts.
Kids Walk to Dunkin

My parents would surely have been arrested by those cops on the many, many occasions that they let me roam unsupervised at a young age. And I am so glad my parental units allowed me that space. The funny thing is that, by many metrics, today is a safer environment.

Social Club

In the evenings I sometimes pass a hotel, located on the corner of an intersection. Large trees line the street and three of them stand in front of the hotel. Birds congregate in those particular trees, as one can hear because they are the only ones from which their chatter spills. There are lights mounted on the hotel that shine against the warm yellow walls, creating a pleasant indirect light. Birds pick those three trees to meet in, nightly, as if they were a public house for birds. And why wouldn’t city birds pick three pleasantly lit trees to meet in, after a long day of searching for food. The Three Tree Social Club for Birds.

The Wood Wide Web

Still reading Ways of Being, by James Bridle. My copy of the book is already full of sentences and paragraphs I highlighted. Sometimes I am only able to read a single page because I need to reflect on the information I just received. I need to let it ferment a little before I can go on. Those are my favorite books. :-)

I learned that The Wood Wide Web was the headline on the cover of the August, 1997, issue of Nature magazine.

Network Theory, which followed right on the heals of the invention of the World Wide Web, enabled us to SEE such networks in nature. We humans use a model through which we view the world. If our model doesn’t acknowledge something we will not see that thing. It will remain in our blind spot. Once we had the World Wide Web and Network Theory, we were able to see similar networks all around us, such as forests and the fungal strands, the mycelium, that connect the trees in a symbiotic relationship.

Remarkable, but not surprising, that we needed to invent a technology in order to see and understand the same principle at work in nature.

Ways of Being is a great book for anyone who enjoyed The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben or The Overstory, by Richard Powers. A great trilogy.

I can get behind this.

Mimosa

The German language has the phrase empfindlich wie eine Mimose sein – to be as sensitive as a Mimosa. This plant is known by many common names including sensitive plant, humble plant, shameplant, and touch-me-not. Find out more about the Mimosa plant on Wikipedia.

James Bridle recounts an experiment, also mentioned in the above-linked Wikipedia article, by researcher Monica Gagliano.

…she devised a simple mechanism: a cup attached to a vertical rail which, when released, would drop a mimosa in its pot exactly fifteen centimetres onto a foam pad. The soft thonk of this landing was enough to surprise the plant into closing up its leaves, but not enough to damage it: a scientifically precise stimulus, with a measurable, ecologically relevant response. Mimosa leaves have small hydraulic structures at their base which, by pumping or draining water, allow them to expand and contract, forcing the leaves to curl. The curling is understood to be a response to a threat: either from animal predation, or excessive heat and evaporation.

and

She kept dropping the plants, over and over again, up to sixty times a session, over multiple sessions. Three hundred and sixty drops a day: a marathon of bumps and shocks. Thonk thonk thonk. It transpired that it only took a few drops – as few as four or five – for the plants to realize that there was no threat, and that it was safe to keep their leaves open (a side test, involving a different stimulus which still elicited the closing response, revealed that they weren’t simply exhausted by the activity). By the end of the sixty-drop sessions, the plants were entirely unbothered by the drop: they had learned to ignore it.

Here is where it becomes interesting:

Gagliano and her colleagues rested and then retested individual mimosas, demonstrating that they retained over time the memory of the drop, and their associated change in behaviour. Mimosas – and, we must now understand, all plants – are not machines. They are more than the sum of a set of pre-programmed actions and reactions. They learn, remember and change their behaviour in response to the world.

Excerpt from Ways of Being by James Bridle

Styrofoam Collection

we+ Gives Value to Styrofoam With the Refoam Collection:

Styrofoam collected from Tokyo and its suburbs is typically melted into ingots at intermediate treatment plants, which are then exported to Europe and South East Asia where they become granules that get used to make cheap, recycled plastic products – similar to ones you see in dollar stores. The process is complex and the transportation of the material between countries plays a detrimental role on the planet. Instead of allowing this process to continue, we+ turns the styrofoam into furniture right at the treatment plant, before they become ingots and head off to a wasteful journey.

Refoam from we+ on Vimeo.

Plants Listen

This week the Interdependence Podcast was recommended to me. I looked at the list of episodes and one, with artist and author James Bridle, appealed to me right away:

Other intelligences and prepping for utopia with James Bridle | Interdependence:

Thrilled to host James Bridle to discuss his recent book on ecologies of non-human intelligence “Ways of Being”, animal sensing and co-operation, deliberative democracy, the singing origins of language, cybernetics, and a great deal more.  Few have such an encyclopedic and generous grasp of this field and it was a real treat.

You should check it out, it will be an hour well spent. Link to James Bridle’s website. He also has a blog – link.

After listening to the podcast I decided to buy the book Ways of Being.

Here is a review of the book:

In this book, Bridle has created a new way of thinking about our world, about being. How would we live our lives and change our world if we embraced this thinking? If we did not place ourselves at the center of everything? Please read this important book. Read it twice. Talk about it. Tell everyone you know.

Link to the Washington Post.

I started reading the book yesterday. Much to contemplate and many highlights to revisit. Here is something I read last night:

In 2014, two biologists at the University of Missouri recorded the sound of cabbage white caterpillars feeding on a cress plant. (Arabidopsis thaliana, rock cress, is the macaque of the botanical sciences, the most popular plant for biological experiments, and it has taught us many things about plant growth and genetics. It was the first flowering plant to have its genome sequenced and its DNA cloned, and it has even gone to the moon.) Having left the caterpillars to munch away for some time, the scientists then removed them and played the sound of their approach back to the plants. Immediately, the plants flooded their leaves with chemical defences intended to ward off predators: they responded to the sound as they would to the actual caterpillars. They heard them coming. Crucially, they didn’t respond in the same way when other sounds – of the wind or of different insects – were played to them. They were able to distinguish between the different sounds, and act appropriately.

That was an excerpt From Ways of Being by James Bridle. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

My mother had a beautiful collection of plants growing in the windows of our apartment in Kóln. Among these plants were a couple of cacti. They grew to be quite large and often bloomed more than once a year. One afternoon a boy, who lived in the neighborhood, came by to ask her about her plant care. He told her that he loved cacti but, although he constantly checked the PH level of the dirt and gave the plants exactly what he had learned from books in the library, they had never bloomed. I remember his dumbfounded look when my mom told him she just gave them water when it seemed like they needed some and she often sang to them. Not a scientific experiment at all, but it taught me at an early age that for plants there is more to thriving than living in the proper dirt.

We are surrounded by intelligence. Much of it we haven’t learned to decode yet. That’s not the fault of fauna and flora… it’s our shortcoming. We are learning about it slowly. Anyway, read James Bridle’s book and you will be able to see what a possible future might look like, if we learn to interact with other intelligences. The book is not a dry scientific text. Bridle serves up plenty of great anecdotes that keep you interested. Perhaps you should start by listening to the podcast – it will give you a good entry into the book.