Did you know 57% of the species on the US national endangered species list are plants? Unfortunately, the majority of the population are not aware of these species and many may no longer exist today. As a society, we often forget about plants because they go widely unnoticed. This is referred to as plant blindness, the inability to notice or recognize plants that are all around us. It is a chronic problem that needs to be solved.
The root cause of this issue is society has disconnected from nature. As previously discussed, people are bringing nature back into urban areas, however, there is still a large gap and areas for improvement. There is more than simply disconnecting, it is also how our brain processes information. We naturally recognize creatures that are similar to us or that may cause harm: humans, animals, objects that pose a threat, strong weather or a steep drop off on a mountain. So since the majority of plants are green, and because our brains are master organizers, we organize all of nature as one large green object.
In addition to how we see plants, we also have a lack of knowledge on their function and structures. Schools spend very little time teaching students about plants and this is where plant blindness begins to take shape in individuals. It is overlooked by academia, therefore, it is overlooked by students. Elementary schools might teach a chapter explaining how plants photosynthesize their food and ask students to grow their own lima beans, but this is where education begins and ends.
When a large group of society has plant blindness, it causes many problems. As mentioned earlier, there is no national attention that plants are endangered. The result of this leads to issues in the ecosystem, animals could lose access to their food or habitat forcing these animals to eat or take over other plant species and start a ripple effect.
Plants also play a large part in the fight against climate change, specifically the urban heat island (UHI) effect. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the annual mean temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. At night, the difference is even more pronounced and can be as high as 22°F (12°C) because cities, unlike more remote areas, tend to retain heat longer. However, plants act as insulators that can significantly reduce this effect making an impact on the increasing global climate change.
While plant blindness is a problem, it is fortunately an issue that can be solved. As individuals, we can take responsibility by becoming aware and recognizing there is a problem. For example, be present in the moment and notice how many parks you pass on the way to work or school, how many storefronts have landscaping and what types of trees surround your office. Educate yourself about the power that plants have on your physical and mental wellbeing. Surround yourself with plants and practice how to take care of them. Start small and grow an appreciation for the nature that surrounds you.
Beyond the individual, school administrators can help by incorporating botany throughout the curriculum, such as, teaching students about different plants, how to grow a garden, the function of plant parts and cultivating a sense of curiosity so they will seek more information. With encouragement and education, students will pause to observe the nature around them. Some might even find themselves so interested they will pursue a career in the field.
The biggest impact can be seen by organizations and companies that are already making a difference. In the built environment, developers are starting to create spaces devoted to plants for their tenants to not only enjoy, but also create a better way of life. Whether an established foot print or a new build, a living green wall can incorporate plants into the everyday bringing nature into any environment. Living walls have the capability to bring a room to life creating moments of awe and reflection.
Sagegreenlife is especially passionate about fighting against plant blindness. We believe in the power of nature designing living walls for better living.