When the IPCC issues a Code Red, it’s time to start growing the Amazon from home (but only with low maintenance plants please)
Are the state of your beloved house plants a metaphor for how humanity has treated the world since—well, forever? Never fear: now’s your chance to mitigate global warming by counteracting deforestation and cultivating your very own Amazon in your bedroom.
Not to brag, but I currently have two thriving house plants. I used to have three, but one got sucked off my window-sill during an extreme weather event that was definitely made more severe by human-induced climate change. My mum said that if I could keep them alive for at least a year, I would be able to look after a child. I guess that explains a lot—just joking. But kids?! Disgusting. They are one of the worst things to happen to the climate. Research estimates that, in developed countries, having one less child reduces a person’s lifetime carbon emissions by, on average, 60 tonnes.1 That being said, this estimate assumes that governments (and other multinational organisations) won’t implement more effective policies that could offset the strain increasing populations put on the climate.2
Anywho, since I can’t actually tell you what species my plants belong to (I bought them based on looks—okay), I asked my friend who works at Bunnings for a list of plants that are hard to kill #journalism.
Snake plants do not require much light to thrive. They even do better if they’re left to dry out from time to time, so you don’t need to worry if you forget to water them for a month or two. Despite what their name suggests, they won’t be able to slither out of their pots as easily as UoA slipped from number one to number nine in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings. In a matter of two years, the Uni somehow became comparatively less sustainable. The THE Impact rankings measure how well universities are delivering on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. UoA seems to have thrown the towel in regarding SDG 13: Climate Action. We’re ranked somewhere between 101st and 200th—it’s too embarrassing to be more specific, I guess.3 While the Uni might be increasing the likelihood of a mass-extinction event, you can rest easy knowing your little Kaa or Nandini will probably outlive the polar bears.
If the fact that you have plants wasn’t enough to prove you love Earth, the heart-shaped leaves of this philodendron will. Like snake plants, heartleaf philodendrons do not need much light to be happy. If you don’t tie the vines to something solid, like a pole, they will grow in any old direction—think vines trailing over shelves or hanging plant vibes. It does require watering more often, but I reckon, if you live in a house with single glazing—because your landlord loves burning extra fossil fuels—just pop that baby next to the window and put that condensation to good use. Although, take heed of my experience and move it before you open the window.
The pothos plant can also grow to have that trendy dangling effect. There are many different varieties of pothos, and their care requirements are very similar to heartleaf philodendrons. Different species of pothos are endemic to different parts of the world, including French Polynesia. French Polynesia is a collection of low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean that are at high risk of becoming partially or fully submerged due to rising sea levels.4 While national and international policymakers continue to ignore or at least fail to act on the threats sea-level rise poses to coastal communities and species—you don’t have to.5 By getting as many pothoses as possible, you can ensure that our stagnant carbon footprints won’t cause a decrease in biodiversity as well as landmass.
I don’t think this will be very deliciosa unless perhaps you’re vegan. Don’t come for me—I hate myself for saying that too. But maybe the crushing weight of climate change (or inflation) is pressuring you to dabble in a plant-based diet. Even David Attenborough isn’t a “strict” vegetarian, so there’s no need to be too hard on yourself, especially because the monstera deliciosa requires watering every one to two weeks. More water for your plants means less water in the ocean—I think this means you can counteract sea-level rise while eating cheese.
Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (ZZ plant)*
Being from Eastern Africa, the ZZ plant is used to surviving droughts. It hardly requires watering and is slow-growing, so you don’t need to worry about re-potting it (who knew that was a requirement of plant parenthood?). Even though many things might not be able to withstand an increase in global temperatures between 1°C, in the best case, and almost 6°C, in the worst case over the next 80 years, the ZZ plant probably will.6
Uni Pot Plant (you know, those ones in the Quad)
Those babies have survived atmospheric, light, noise, and Lord knows what other kinds of pollution. They’re so good at distracting us from the construction that they can definitely distract you from your eco-anxiety. I couldn’t tell you what sort of plants they are, but the Uni isn’t going to notice if a few stems go missing. And really, helping to purify the air in our spaces is the least they could do for our wellbeing.
Guess what? Nature improves our mood, and the Pinterest-ability of our room, regardless of whether it is fake or alive. For those of you who really do not give a shit about climate change because they plan to be dead by 2100, just go to Kmart and buy the least biodegradable-looking fern you can find. The benefit of a fake plant is that you can choose when to take care of it. And by taking care of it, I mean throwing it in the bin and buying a new one when you get sick of it. Even though the people working on the fake plant’s production line probably didn’t receive a living wage, at least you didn’t invest in an oil company.
*This plant can be toxic to pets—so consult Google before you accidentally kill your dog
- Wynes and Nicholas. The Climate Mitigation Gap: Education and Government Recommendations Miss the Most Effective Individual Actions. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541
- Samuel. Having Fewer Kids Will Not Save the Climate. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/2/13/21132013/climate-change-children-kids-anti-natalism
- Auckland Holds Top Ten Spot in Global University Impact Rankings. https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/about-us/about-the-university/the-university/sustainability-and-environment/university-of-auckland-times-higher-education-global-university-impact-ranking.html
- Ballard et al. Potential Impact of Sea Level Rise on French Islands Worldwide. https://natureconservation.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=1344
- Crossen. The Climate Dispossessed. https://doi-org.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/10.7810/9781988587233
- Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis (Summary for Policymakers) https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_SPM_final.pdf