“Most people who bother to think about plants at all tend to regard them as the mute, immobile furniture of our world—useful enough, and generally attractive, but obviously second-class citizens in the republic of life on Earth. In the last several decades science has been showing that plants are endowed with feeling, weave complex social relations and can communicate with themselves and with animals”
- Stefano Mancuso, Brilliant Green
When asked for the green index of our cities, we might definitely remain speechless: it not a data we commonly manage, and most of all we tend to associate urbanism with skyscrapers, buzzing vehicles and crowded squares. Yet many of our cities are also “crowded” with trees, and green is more at hand than we perceive.
Why didn’t we notice? First of all, nature seems “silent and still” as professor Mancuso reminds us in his work “The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence”. A few months ago, while cooperating with him during the creation of /skin regimen/, he shared his vision of nature and the reason why we do not notice it: nature must be somehow unnoticed by human beings since otherwise we would be overwhelmed by so many giant creatures. We found this explanation fascinating and as such worth reading a few more of his books.
And if we do not want to refer to scientists and researchers to understand why we have lost track of nature’s presence, certainly we can all agree that we walk, run and drive so fast, or even worse we commute so often in underground trains, that in the end we could not even say what kind of plants live on our path, and maybe even on our street or in front of our apartments.
And yet plants move, interact with the environment, and definitely with us: they just move at a much slower pace and use a language we do not understand consciously.
And, kindly enough, they care for us: they do ensure we have oxygen (yes this we all know!). What is more interesting is that they release a substance that we can smell and that is able to influence our wellbeing. The name is Phytoncides, which literally means "exterminated by the plant". These fragrant, volatile substances derived from trees lower stress hormones, like cortisol, in our bodies and contribute to a stronger immunity. Not an easy word to remember, but definitely a very interesting explanation why we feel soooo much better when we can take a few minutes to walk in a garden or in a park. And as many recent studies in Japan have proven, 5 minutes is more than enough to change our state of being for hours.
Moreover, exposure to a natural environment helps us be less impulsive and more creative, which we all need to counteract the pressure and the frantic rhythms of our days, spent most of the time at a desk, or on a chair. Sitting is so incredibly prevalent, we don’t even question how much we’re doing it,” author Nilofer Merchant says. “Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.”
Eager to get on your sneakers and get out and embrace one of the trees you just didn’t notice? Well now you know that even if it looks odd, it makes sense!
Embracing our green friends or not is an open decision; finding the time to be in nature in our city life is a must which can be facilitated in innovative ways! Forget counting parks: Treepedia – a database of urban greenery - ranks cities based on how leafy they look to residents. It was recently created by MIT researchers, using satellite imagery to create an algorithm to estimate the number of trees in cities and the leafiness of the streets.