Green Conversations: Emmy Laura Pérez Fjalland
Dive into a meaningful conversation with cultural geographer and writer Emmy Laura around the landscapes we inhabit, shape, live from, and die in.
"Becoming attentive, for instance, to human-plant histories opens the view to shared histories of flourishing and suffering."
Emmy Laura is a cultural geographer and writer working with environmental storytelling and ecological thinking. She holds a Ph.D. and has been a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer for the last three years. Also, she has created, written, and curated the Danish weekly letter Jordbo (‘earthling’ in English) in collaboration with the media Føljeton. Jordbo’s editorial universe is centered around the landscapes we inhabit, shape, live off, and die in.
How did it all start?
In the light of apocalyptic scenarios, it is clear that many of our traditional worldviews must be revisited. Because the way we describe the world around us—and our relations with it—has an impact on how we are able to act. A place to explore and cultivate a new language might be with our sensitivity and literacy of more-than-human beings and histories. I seek to query how to tell the world with this more-than-human attention; what histories have been silent, what worlds might emerge; and how we might relate with such world-making.
Could we get to know a landscape through its plants?
It might be the best starting point! One flower or plant at a time. Along my bike route, flowers and plants have escaped the garden fences and are mixing up with roadside beings such as chamomile, yarrow, stichting nettles, sea thrift, cornflower, chicory, meadowsweet, creeping thistle, and tansy… A myriad of wildflower life.
Landscapes are full of complex entanglements of dependencies, tensions, and migrations. Studying a flower can give a glimpse of this complex landscape weaving. And I find generosity in noticing plant life along these paths and sites; one might learn to notice when a certain plant thrives, when someone takes up too much place, or when someone needs care. Getting to know a landscape is about getting to know its inhabitants and rhythms, questioning who inhabits this place and why.
Is it meaningful to study flora in light of environmental change?
The generosity that comes with wanting to know their names matters: it is not just any plant; it is a special plant! The art of being attentive is all about seeing with our whole well-equipped sensory bodies—smelling, seeing, hearing, and touching—and being able to gather and reflect on information with our knowledgeable, creative, and historical minds.
Becoming attentive, for instance, to human-plant histories opens the view to shared histories of flourishing and suffering. Try following the history of matter—the root used for coloring red—of cotton, linen or hemp, indigo, oak, or safran. It can inspire ideas for how to repair what has been broken. It might propel a sense of wonder and curiosity. A bit of recognition and enlightenment. We might sparkle our ‘herbi-torial imagination.’
How do you see the world of flora intertwining with care practices?
Cultivating attentiveness and generosity towards the nonhuman living world might start with small, delicious moments, gathering flowing herbs and making infusions, oils, and extracts. Maybe because of their resourcefulness as foods; maybe because gathering, cooking, preserving, and caring in their most vital sense is a basic experience of ‘nature,’ self, and community care. We might even experience the moments of flower attention as small self-care pulses.
Also, it is not the first time in human history that climate change challenges us to rethink and transform our landscape care, design, and usage. The cultural influence on landscapes is omnipresent! Yet, there are landscapes whose nature has thrived under human disturbance and care for millennia: grasslands, meadows, mangroves, forest gardens, heaths, and sea gardens. There is much to learn about these landscape care practices and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).
Could you share five plants that play a vital role in your daily routine?
Roses for salads and cakes in June and July, stinging nettles for infusions and teas, chamomile for sleeping, sage for breathing, and lavender for showering. It depends on the season, but these come to my mind.