What Is Plant Blindness? Urban Farmer Nick Cutsumpas Explains the Phenomenon
Plants are vital to our environment and its many ecosystems, making our attention essential. Here's what plant blindness is, and how to combat it.
Plant coach and urban gardener Nick Cutsumpas (of @farmernick Instagram fame) has made a living by paying close attention to plants and the planet.
"It's my mission not just to make the world greener than when we found it, but just give people the knowledge and confidence they need to create their own green spaces in the pursuit of environmental action," says Cutsumpas. "Because at the end of the day, we want to care about our plants, but we don't want to do it at the expense of our planet."
In practice, this translates to proactive plant parenting, considering the ecosystems that you cultivate in your home and garden, favoring native plants, managing water footprints, and more. His mindful approach to greenery is an antidote to a prevalent human failing known as plant blindness.
What Is Plant Blindness?
Plant blindness is a phrase that describes the human tendency to lack compassion for non-animal species.
"You could walk on your normal commute, and you might not ever recognize the plants in your environment, the number of trees that you walk by, or the bushes and the flowers and shrubs," says Cutsumpas.
According to the botanists that originally coined the term, plant blindness "results in a chronic inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs." Those afflicted with this worldview fail to see human beings as part of a much larger, interconnected ecosystem, one largely defined by plants, trees, and fungi.
Cutsumpas witnessed the issue firsthand during a shoot Netflix series Instant Dream Home, on which he stars as “plantrepreneur" and landscape architect. As part of the project, Cutsumpas had a hydroponic setup sent to set and arrived to a disappointing scene.
"I get there and the whole thing is completely wilted—there are 200 people around, and no one plugged it in," he says. "They didn't realize it needed water. That idea of plant blindness and just not being aware of the amazing greenery around us is something that many of us suffer, especially in urban areas."
If you or someone you know suffers from plant blindness, a shift in perspective is essential. Here are three ways to open your eyes to the greener species.
How to Increase Your Plant Empathy
1. Tend to Houseplants
Plant empathy increases with exposure, so bring some plants into your home to foster connection—thoughtfully, of course.
"I think the biggest thing when it comes to taking care of plants, viewing it through an eco focus lens starts before you even buy that plant," says Cutsumpas. He suggests considering lighting, heating, and humidity, along with your busy schedule—all factors that define the ecosystem of your home, and thus your new plant's, too.
2. Plant a Garden
Butterflies, bees, and more rely on plants, and our entire (and ultimately fragile) collective ecosystem relies on them in turn. Track down the growth zone (or plant hardiness zone) of your home to learn which native plants will thrive and benefit your surrounding environment, and get planting!
Nurturing a garden that contributes to your neighborhood's larger may better help you comprehend the immense power of plants.
3. Do Your Research
Knowledge increases empathy, so take the time to get to know the plants that you encounter during your day-to-day life. Track down names, history, benefits to insects and animals, and more.
Armed with a bit of background, you may be more likely to acknowledge plants' presence—and their critical importance to the planet.
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