The Lost Language of Plants unveils a world (our world) that is both shocking and stimulating, spectacularly disturbing and deeply moving. In this world there are plants, yes, but the book is about much more than plants. As Buhner comments in a note to the reader, “…this book explores the complex, multidimensional, intricately interconnected, synergistic, living organism that we call Earth, and it is designed to be complex and multidimensional as well” (viii). The book itself intentionally transmits multiple layers of communication, reflective of the plants and living organisms that are featured throughout.
He describes how plants communicate using self-generated natural chemicals—affecting, directing, and responding to the environments and communities that they live in. Unfortunately, our global environment has become completely inundated with trace amounts of pharmaceutical chemicals, radioactive materials, and medical, infectious and pathological waste, all of which significantly disrupt the healthy function of ecosystems (including human ecologies). Beyond that, he urges us to see that the simplification of species in ecosystems worldwide dangerously reduces the regenerative capacity of Earth’s ecosystems, and has grave consequences for human health; human health is inextricably tied to the health of ecosystems worldwide.
“Man sees the morning as the beginning of a new day; he takes germination as the start in the life of a plant, and withering as its end. But this is nothing more than a biased judgment on his part. Nature is one. There is no starting point or destination, only an unending flux, a continuous metamorphosis of all things.”
–Masanobu Fukuoka (148)
The mountain of devastating and publicly available data and statistics about the environmental impacts of technological medicine highlights deeper issues of our modern predicament; these deeper issues have to do with the reductive and mechanistic paradigms, epistemologies, and concepts that we use to understand and interact with the world; this includes the “universe-as-machine” metaphor, which denies the possibility of intelligence, self-awareness, and sanctity in the non-human organisms of Earth.
By describing the systemic and multi-functional uses of plant chemistry throughout Earth’s ecosystems, Buhner makes the case that the chemical language of plants is much more than mere chemistry; it is an intentionally meaningful language that is crucial for maintaining the health of ecosystems. The “lost” language of plants, then, has more to do with the loss of meaning ascribed by humans to the world around us. In other words, “this book delves into the meaning embedded within plant chemistry, the language of plants—a language human beings in the Western world lost knowledge of when we began to think so insistently with the analytical portions of our brains and quit thinking with other more holistic parts of ourselves” (ix). Thus, what is deeply needed is for us to recover the innate capacity to understand the world as a living system. This means interacting with the land as a sacred place, filled with sacred beings. It’s the foundation for healing the interior and exterior wounds created by the “universe-as-machine” mentality.
“Without deep connection to the land our healers remain anthropocentric—human centered—in their approaches, their theories of human health generated in isolation from the environment with which we evolved. They contain the same category error that all reductionist sciences contain. The solution is reconnection to the natural world and the living intelligence of land” (230).