TRU prof's new book all about learning from plants, not about them
A plant conservationist and professor of botany and ecology at Thompson Rivers University has published a unique book using a creative combination of art and science.
Dr. Lyn Baldwin is the author of Drawing Botany Home, A Rooted Life, a book of essays and illustrations she crafted out in nature in her field journal that explores the intricate relationship between society and the botanical world.
“I was trained to count plants,” she said. “The book grew out of my personal experiences and recognition that the care the world needs today cannot be answered by science alone, science is no longer sufficient.”
The book starts with Baldwin’s arrival back in B.C. in 2004 after spending almost three decades abroad working, studying and earning credentials in the field of plant conservation and botany.
Upon her return, Baldwin felt lonely and unfamiliar, which sparked deeper questions about roots, place and mobility.
“The first thing that challenged my understanding is the assumption of having mobility in our lives,” she said. “I just assumed that moving was part of what I did as a botanist. I wanted the book to be about the lessons someone like me, privileged with mobility and education, can learn after returning home.”
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Baldwin wrote about her experiences looking through the lens of learning from plants, instead of about them. She wrote about the lessons she learned and added bright watercolour paintings throughout the pages.
“Plants present an alternative strategy on this earth as they are inherently rooted,” she said. “What does it mean to grow in place over the centuries? What does it mean when you can only root in place through collaboration with pollinators and with microbial neighbours that live in the soil? Individuality and mobility is not what builds community among plants.”
Through her essays, Baldwin explores the relationships between botany and the country’s history of colonial violence for settlers and Indigenous peoples.
“I am a descendant of settlers who’ve been estranged from their homeland,” she said. “Field journals are part of the European project to name and claim the so-called New World. Botany has always been a business. Restoring our relationship with plants might be the first step in restoring our relations with all peoples.”
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Other topics of exploration within the book’s pages are of Baldwin’s own traumatic memories of being raised by “hardcore back-to-the-landers,” the importance of using art to bring a deeper understanding of plants and how deepening relationships with plants can help restore the world.
Published by Rocky Mountain Books, Drawing Botany Home, A Rooted Life will be release on April 25 and available for purchase two or three weeks after that.
The book launch is from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at The Xchange Community Collaborative Centre at 286 Tranquille Road in Kamloops.
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Baldwin is an award-winning teacher and plant conservation biologist who uses art and science to help mitigate society’s extinction of experience with the botanical world, according to her website.
For more than two decades, she has worked to cultivate care between the people and plants of place by sharing the stories she discovers in her illustrated field journal, in art galleries and science museums and in numerous journal publications.
Sneak peeks of her book and other writings about the natural world can be found on her blog.
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