Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Expanding the Circle of Sentience

Wild lantana MR 2013

If you have access to this video, it's well worth watching for all plant lovers:


Professor J.C. Cahill of University of Alberta has been researching the behavior of plants in some very novel and fascinating ways. Gardeners have long suspected, or known of, the sentience of plants pretty much forever, but science has been way behind in understanding the unique consciousness of our green friends. There's some great photography in the show as well, and even if you can't see the video, it's fun to read the comments of fellow plant-lovers who've seen the show.

For too long, humans have defined such things as intelligence, feelings, consciousness, and sentience in purely human, or at least simian, terms. I think we're finally learning that this approach is inadequate and denies us appreciation and knowledge of the lives of other species, particularly those that are structured in a radically different way from our own. It's nice to know that we're getting the idea that you don't have to have opposable thumbs to join the Sentience Club!

'Sentience" MR 2013


  1. Hi Marla,

    When I was a child I read "The Secret Life of Plants". While not considered "real science" this book was enough to convince me that plants had their own version of consciousness. As a practicing buddhist I try not to willfully harm or kill sentient beings but know that at every moment of every day some being (animal, vegetable or yes even mineral) will perish because I live. Knowing this fills me with gratitude for and wonder at the really bizarre and strange world we are all part of.


  2. Hi, Gail,
    I'm not surprised we have Buddhism in common! I read that book when I was a kid, too. But having grown up partly agricultural, I wasn't surprised by it at all. I'd already seen enough to convince me. It is a very strange and wonderful world out there!