Talks by Sarah and many other plant-forward speakers for this June 2021 online conference are freely available online.

This two-day online conference, June 17 & 18, 2021, explored plant/human connections, including ethics in human treatment of plants, plant sentience and communication, and opportunities for developing more respectful and reciprocal relationships between humans and plants.  The conference was led by initiator Paul Moss, and was hosted through the University of Minnesota. I am delighted to be a member of the ten-person conference planning collective.

Link to my welcoming remarks to open the conference.

Link to Toward a New Way of Being with Plants YouTube Channel for all conference session recordings.

On June 17, I co-presented a session with Alice McSherry titled, “Conversations toward More-Than-Intellectual Modes of Knowing with Vegetal Beings.”

Rethinking ethnographic traditions centered on inquiry with humans, recent doctoral research by Sarah Abbott and Alice McSherry engaged multi-species and embodied ethnographic practices for social science inquiries with trees, folk herbalism, and medicinal plants. In the first half of this joint session, Abbott and McSherry will share overlaps within their research involving Indigenous methodologies and storywork; ethics of respect, responsibility, reverence, and reciprocity within mindfulness of relationship; making space for metaphysical and ontological knowing in empirically-based scientific disciplines; and embodied, more-than-intellectual modes of knowing with trees and plants as sentient, conscious beings. For the second part of the session, attendees are invited to share their experiences of embodied ways of knowing and communication with vegetal beings. The aim of this session is to decenter traditionally centralized, linear modes of inquiry and knowledge-holding so as to bolster and amplify marginalized ways of knowing in nonhuman/human relations.

The conference goals of Toward a New Way of Being with Plants were and continue to be to:

  • inspire people to change the ways in which they think about, interact with, and utilize plants so that their actions will be more respectful toward and collaborative with plants
  • advance the perspective that plants are much more complex, sentient, and intelligent than is commonly acknowledged
  • provide a forum for Indigenous and other perspectives that promote more respectful ways of relating with plants 
  • help to connect people who are interested in working for more respectful treatment of plants
  • encourage and support the development of a network seeking to increase respectful treatment of plants that will continue after the event
  • inspire and encourage scholarly emphasis on plant-human relationships

The free conference, open to all, was held on the Whova platform using Zoom to facilitate attendee participation and involvement. 

For any questions, please contact

Image: Artwork courtesy of Zachari Logan.
(detail) Esta Selva Selvaggia, No. 1, pastel on black paper, 59 X 288 inches, 2019