The discovery of slowness: life in the plant lane. 13th Annual Geoff Baylis Lecture Speaker Professor Steven Higgins

Wednesday 9th of September 2015, 06:00 PM (5 years ago)

Contact: David Lyttle | djl1yttle@gmail.com | (03) 454 54750

Speaker Professor Steven Higgins, Castle 1, University of Otago (drinks and nibbles starting from 5.15 pm in the concourse).

Abstract

Plants do many fantastic things, but they do them slowly, which make it difficult for us to appreciate them. How then will plants cope with rapid environmental change and our short attention spans?

Plants are reputedly obedient. After all they stand still and wait to be counted. But this apparent obedience masks their power as the true engineers of our planet and their disregard for human beings. It is an open secret that plants made the planet we now find so cosy—they manipulated the atmosphere, created soil and shaped our climate. Plants are of course under appreciated, and for good reason, for unlike competing deities it took plants more than seven days to achieve their wonders. But before the Anthropocene such slowness was not persecuted. Back in deep time, better did not mean faster. In deep time plants were afforded the time to evolve their way out of crises, re-engineering the world as they went. But the rules of the game are changing, our world is faster and the next crisis will not play out on geological time scales. How will plants deal with being forced into the fast lane?