Contemporary Conversation: Plan, Plant, Planet

Philosopher Michael Marder and scholar Shela Sheikh speak about our uprootedness from this world and the non-linear roots and routes offered by vegetal life.

“Plants,” Terence McKenna wrote in 1989 should be adopted as “the organisational model for life in the 21st century,” much in the same ways cybernetic circuits and networks became the social ecology of the previous century. Yet, how does the historical propertisation of land relations continue to structure social networks today? One in every five-plant species is currently on the brink of extinction. Landscapes and vegetation are still used as the backdrop against which colonial dispossession is mobilised, while the expansion of intensive agriculture and industrial settlement has contaminated, eroded, drained, burnt, flooded and depleted the surface of our planet on a worldwide scale. In response to such offences against the earth, can the root systems of plants, their paths, lines, traces, upwards and downwards, their offshoots, their seeds, their fertile compostable life—illuminate the workings of capital and power, nature and culture? What root-networks of human-plant connections structure our planetary existence?