OK In Health - Environmental Care

Plant Blindness - May 2012

Green vision offers cure for plant blindness

By Environment Care Articles

A colleague told me his toddler was wandering through a neighbourhood park picking up twigs and sticks, brandishing them as tools for digging, poking, and tapping. Suddenly the boy stopped and pointed excitedly to the canopy of branches above. “Look papa. Sticks come from trees!”

Mentally reconnecting fallen branches to their home on the trunk is obvious to an adult, but many of us have lost our profound sense of wonder about the interconnected web of life that surrounds us. This is especially true when it comes to the plant world.

Green vision offers cure for plant blindness

we cannot see the forest or the trees.

In 1998, American botanists James Wandersee and Elizabeth Schussler defined plant blindness as “the inability to see or notice the plants in one's own environment,” which leads “to the inability to recognize the importance of plants in the biosphere and in human affairs.” This prognosis rings true in an age when most youngsters can identify hundreds of corporate logos and branded products but can’t name the plants and trees in their backyards.

Why are we suffering from a nagging case of plant blindness? There is no simple scientific answer, but Wandersee and Schussler argued that plants don’t capture our attention like animals and other stimuli. To the human eye, they are largely static. Thus we tend to lump plants together into a green backdrop, failing to distinguish between the millions of blades of grass or multitude of plant species.

Show someone a photo of a lush forest with a grizzly bear and ask what’s in the picture. Most will answer, “A bear.” Add a spotted owl to the scene and the response might become, “A grizzly bear under the watchful eye of an owl.” What you are unlikely to hear is a description of the flora accompanying the charismatic fauna.

Part of the problem may be related to the overwhelming amount of data our eyes send to our brains. Danish author Tor Nørretranders estimates that the human eye generates more than 10 million bits of data per second. Our brain extracts only about 40 bits of data per second, and only 16 bits reach our conscious vision and attention. Unfortunately, nature’s greenery tends to be drowned out in a visual flurry of noise and shinier items of interest.

Nørretranders also found that people who have had meaningful educational and cultural experiences with plants are more likely to notice greenery.

How do we reconnect with nature and learn to give plants their due? The answer is simple. People, especially kids, need to connect with nature in their everyday environment, and we need to bring more to our neighbourhoods, public spaces, and backyards. It might surprise you, but most urban spaces are already jam-packed with natural wonders.

After volunteering in an urban apple orchard at the Spadina Museum in Toronto, Laura Reinsborough began seeing the world through “fruit goggles.” Once she became familiar with fruit-bearing trees in the city, she suddenly noticed them everywhere – cherries, plums, crabapples, pears, grapes, and walnuts. This largely untapped urban bounty spurred her to found Not Far From the Tree, a group that has organized volunteers to help harvest more than 14,000 kilograms of fruit from hundreds of backyard trees over the past four years.

If you want to help bring nature to your community, join one of the many groups working to enhance it. Local efforts to restore wetlands, forests, parks, and public spaces provide great opportunities to get hands-on outside time and boost your community’s natural wealth.

 




Environment  Care  ArticlesEnvironment Care's Bio: OK In Health started a GREEN wellness e-Magazine in 2004. We wanted to start a magazine that was completely green with a zero footprint.


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Wellness Tip
Stretch Your Back
Begin on your hands and knees. Slide your hands and arms out in front of you so that your torso forms one long sloping line from your fingertips to your tailbone. Breathe smoothly; reach forward with your fingertips while you keep your hips in line with your knees. Hold for about 30 seconds. Relax and then repeat. If you have back problems, first consult the professional who treats you before performing this stretch.


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Recipe
Fresh Cherry Crisp
Category: Desserts
Description: What says summer more than cherries?
A fruit crisp offers the luscious flavor of a fresh fruit pie without the fuss of making a crust. Celebrate the arrival of cherries with this rich-tasting crisp. The nut-studded topping works great with other fruit combinations too.
This is a delicious cherry crisp made with fresh cherries instead of canned. It may take a little longer to make because you need to pit the cherries, but it is well worth it when you taste the finished product.

The nutritional benefits of cherries are pretty big, particularly when you consider their small size. Many of the health benefits of cherries are related to the natural chemical that gives them their color.

Anthocyanins give flowers, berries and other fruits the colors ranging from red to blue. Some of the best food sources of anthocyanins are red grapes, chokeberry, eggplant and, of course, cherries.
These pigments attract pollinators, act as a “sunscreen” and protect the plant from radicals formed by UV light, so they act as antioxidants. The antioxidant benefits are transferred to people when the fruits or vegetables are eaten.

Anthocyanins are also natural pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. They inhibit the production of COX-2 enzymes, as do over the counter and prescription pain relievers. Natural anti-inflammatories are believed to reduce the risk of many types of cancer. But, there are more nutritional benefits of cherries.

Cherries contain melatonin, another natural pain reliever and COX-2 inhibitor. Melatonin also helps to regulate sleep cycles and has been sold as a natural sleep aid. Reduced levels of melatonin have been associated with heart disease and increased cancer rates in night workers. The human body naturally produces melatonin, but primarily in darkness.
Constant artificial lighting present in most homes and work places reduces the amount of melatonin that the body produces. So, one of the health benefits of cherries to modern day man has to do with replacing some of the melatonin that has been lost to artificial light, unhealthy work schedules and unnatural sleep patterns. And, there are more nutritional benefits of cherries.

Cherries, like most fruits, contain vitamin C. The proven and suspected health benefits of cherries and other vitamin C rich foods are too numerous to be covered in this recipe.
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