The Light Eaters: Zoë Schlanger

A Journey into Plant Intelligence and Consciousness

In Zoë Schlanger’s latest book, The Light Eaters, the unknown realms of plant intelligence and consciousness are brought to life through compelling narratives and cutting-edge scientific exploration. This book is not just a scientific treatise but a deeply engaging narrative that challenges our perceptions of the natural world. Schlanger, a seasoned science journalist, takes readers on an immersive journey, revealing the unseen world of plant life in vivid detail.

The Light Eaters is a masterpiece of science writing. Burning with open-minded curiosity, this exploration of the emerging revolution in plant science will challenge what you think you know and ignite a new way of seeing the plant world. Part detective story, part field trip and part philosophy, this brilliant book stretches the mind, toward a profound new understanding of the sophistication of under-appreciated plants. I feel it as an antidote to arrogance, as it engenders humility, respect and awe for the light eaters who make the world.”
—Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

One of the core themes of The Light Eaters is the concept of plant communication. Schlanger explores how plants interact with their environment and each other through sophisticated mechanisms. Plants are shown to have intricate systems for detecting and responding to various stimuli, such as light, sound, and touch. This section of the book is rich with examples of plants exhibiting behaviors that suggest memory, decision-making, and even altruism.

For instance, Schlanger discusses how certain plants can release chemical signals to warn nearby plants of impending insect attacks, prompting them to produce defensive compounds. This form of communication, often referred to as “plant signaling,” is a testament to the complex and interconnected nature of plant life.

“I did not realize that my houseplants could feel me touching them,” Schlanger said. “I say ‘feel’ — what I mean is, they sense the signal of my touch as an assault.” Credit: Gloria Dickie

Schlanger provides a thorough historical context, tracing the evolution of botanical science from early speculative ideas to contemporary rigorous research. She references seminal works like The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, which, despite its popularity, was criticized for blending scientific facts with unverified claims. This historical perspective is crucial for understanding the scientific community’s initial reluctance to accept the idea of plant intelligence.

“A brilliant must-read about the marvels of the green world. This book shook and changed me, revealing plant intelligence as more strange and wondrous than I could imagine. Zoë Schlanger’s explorations brim with curiosity and every page brings new revelation and insight.”
—David George Haskell, author of Sounds Wild and Broken, The Songs of Trees, and The Forest Unseen

The book highlights how scientific paradigms evolve and how new discoveries often face skepticism before gaining acceptance. Schlanger’s narrative underscores the importance of open-mindedness in scientific inquiry, while also advocating for rigorous validation of new theories.

The Light Eaters is heavily grounded in contemporary research, providing readers with an up-to-date view of the field of plant intelligence. Schlanger visits various research sites and interviews leading scientists, offering firsthand accounts of their groundbreaking work. This section is particularly engaging as it presents science in action, with ongoing experiments and debates.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is its discussion on the controversies surrounding plant consciousness. Schlanger examines the work of researchers like Monica Gagliano, who has made bold claims about plant cognition and consciousness. While these claims are fascinating, they are also contentious, with some in the scientific community questioning the methodologies and interpretations of such studies.

Listen to an audio sample of the book:

You can read more reviews and purchase the book through Harper Collins.

For more on the topic of plant consciousness we invite you to listen to our Sounds of SAND Podcast with scientist and author of Thus Spoke the Plant, Monica Gagliano, #23 The Songs of Gaia.


New Paradigm of Animal Consciousness

Article by

Far more animals than previously thought likely have consciousness, top scientists say in a new declaration — including fish, lobsters and octopus

Indigenous Knowledge & Climate Crisis: Nonette Royo

Article by

Robust Indigenous and local land rights are vital for managing forests, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preserving biodiversity, and improving livelihoods

Indigenous Solar Eclipse Stories From Across Turtle Island

Article by

From rodents of unusual size to flaming arrows, communities across North America share solar eclipse traditions

Chasing Cicadas

Article by

Amid the cacophony of a cicada emergence, Anisa George reflects on her choice to leave the Bahá’í faith and its promise of a new civilization

The Possibilities of Regeneration

Video with

Origins of regenerative agriculture, offering a story that is both new and ancient in its roots

Ghost Pipe, Illness, and Mycoheterotrophy

Article by

No matter how sick I feel, I’m still afire with a need to do something for my living

Listening to Stones: Little Bear

Article by

Little Bear believes there is an unspoken language that makes it possible to bridge every worldview

Love as the Ground of Being

Video with ,

Iain McGilchrist and Rowan Williams discuss the limits of materialism.

Support SAND with a Donation

Science and Nonduality is a nonprofit organization. Your donation goes towards the development of our vision and the growth of our community.
Thank you for your support!