Arboretum helps design students focus on ‘plant blindness’

Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 01:20 in Mathematics & Economics

Just beyond the old iron gates of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, a creative experiment in pedagogy has been bringing the concept of plant sciences to growing, changing life. For three years now, master’s degree candidates in “Field Methods and Living Collections,” led by Rosetta S. Elkin of the Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Arboretum’s William “Ned” Friedman, have used social theory and a methodology that examines plant evolution, morphology, built neighborhoods, and landscape design to address “plant blindness” — the human tendency to take plants for granted, reducing them to a green fuzz in the background. “There is quite a history of human exceptionalism, and that we are the absolute species. On Maslow’s ladder [the hierarchy of needs] … plants were so low they barely made the rung. The whole class hinges on this diagnosis of plant blindness, that people assume that plants are just there, and they...

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