Tag Archives: self-awareness

Trees Have Brains!

The Dakota Indians have a relationship with trees. It is cooperative and responsive. They feel with and understand the trees. Trees are companions on this Earth and they deserve respect. Dorothy Lee writes in Freedom and Culture,

“As I look out of my window now, I see trees, some of which I like to be there, and some of which I intend to cut down to keep them from encroaching further upon the small clearing I made for my house. The Dakota Black Elk Indian, however, saw trees as having rights to the land, equal to his own. He saw them as the ‘standing peoples, in whom the winged ones built their lodges and reared their families.”

In the perspective of Dorothy Lee, trees are objects to be controlled and manipulated, while the Dakota look at trees as ‘people’ that they relate with. They live with trees as treasured beings and treat them with appreciation. They have equal value with humans.

What would cause the Dakotas to give so much status to the trees that they experienced trees as ‘standing peoples.’ They obviously had a concept of and understanding of trees as more than western cultures do. Recent scientific studies substantiate a far greater intelligence capacity for trees and all things green and has provided some mind-boggling information about the green world. Trees have intelligence. They not only have intelligence, they have ‘brains.’ Trees communicate. Based on a scientific analysis of learning and memory, Stephen Buhner comments in Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm that: “In short, plants possess a highly developed root brain which works much as ours does to analyze incoming data and generate sophisticated responses.”

Who knew?! But, Buhner goes on to say that not only do they have a brain, but they also have social networks due to the fact that their brains, or neural networks extend out, sometimes for hundreds of acres, and communicate with all other plants! “…all plants are intelligent (just as are all mammals). They are all self-aware. They all engage in highly interactive social transactions with their communities.”

You are out walking in the woods. You are standing on the brains of an entire community of plant intelligence. They know that you are there. Through vast and intricate underground neural networks, they are communicating with each other about you! What do you know about them?


What! Intelligent Amoebas?!?!

I often wonder why humans of all stripes seem set on comparing humans to animals in order to show how ‘superior’ humans are. To me, that is not only unnecessary, but also arrogant. Can’t human intelligence stand on its own? Animals have an entirely different kind of intelligence than humans. So do all living organisms have intelligence and each in a different flavor, but it is, no less, “intelligence.”

With these thoughts in mind, I was overjoyed to find Stephen Harrod Buhner. In his profound book, “Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm’ he says: “In other words, all living organisms can not only process data, they also engage in a search for meaning, an analysis that runs much deeper than linear cause and effect. Thus, three capacities – self-awareness, intelligence and the search for meaning – that have (erroneously) been ascribed as belonging only to human beings are in fact general conditions of every living organism.”

He goes on to say: “. . .every living organism on this planet. . . has the capacity to analyze the nature of outside forces that touch them, determine their intent, and then to exercise judgment in determining from among a number of potential responses which one to implement. . . We are different only in the specific ecological functions we serve . . . Our intelligence is only a special instance of a general condition.”

I am not a proponent of the hierarchy of intelligence and decision making. Buhner gives a completely different way of understanding our place in the whole scheme of things: a place where we can act from a more expanded consciousness. I think that Buhner’s studies open the way to a much more egalitarian, health-giving, cooperative and peaceful way of living on and with this Earth.

When we believe that we are better than animals rather than fellow travelers on this Earth, we take an immense loss. We miss out on the kinds of intelligence, wisdom and humor that animals and other intelligent beings have to share with us. If you are interested in animal intelligence, I would highly recommend, among many other possibilities, “Kinship with All Life” by J. Allen Boone: “Three Among the Wolves” by Helen Thayer; “The Beauty of the Beasts,” by Ralph Helfer, “Mind in the Waters,” a Sierra Club book, and “Mutual Aid,” by Peter Kropotkin.