John Charles Ryan
Jill Pflugheber and Steven F. White’s Microcosms is a dynamic, multifaceted resource that I include in my teaching of interdisciplinary plant studies. Since the release of the project, I’ve been thrilled to incorporate Microcosms into my pedagogy at the intersection of Indigenous studies, environmental humanities, plant humanities, and digital humanities. This portal of spellbinding imagery and text provides just that—a portal—into the world of plants and human relationships with them. Offering an engaging platform for students to appreciate plants as powerful beings, Microcosms is also an inspiring antidote to the sense of malaise that tends to accompany classroom discussions of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the Anthropocene. Considering how “digital natives” are so immersed in new media, the captivating content available through Microcosms is a perfect entrance point for starting discussions about sacred plants and plants as sacred as well as Indigenous people’s sacred ecologies of plants. At the same time, the project invites learners to critically consider the role of technology in mediating—and, indeed, documenting—Indigenous people’s engagements with plants as medicines for mind, spirit, and body. I also regard Microcosms as exemplary of the potential for collaboration between the arts, humanities, and sciences towards the common aim of enhancing understanding of people, plants, and places in the Americas. As such, the project offers an excellent case study of environmental interdisciplinarity or, more precisely, transdisciplinarity.The term homage in the project’s subtitle signifies an “act of acknowledging one’s faithfulness” to the plants with whom we are in constant symbiotic exchange every moment of our lives. Microcosms is thus eminently positioned to highlight the past, present and future alliances between humankind and plantkind that are increasingly crucial for shared flourishing and rejuvenation in the Anthropocene.
John Charles Ryan, Southern Cross University, University of Notre Dame, Australia