Photo courtesy of Diana Siddiqui.
Nature is for all. But human actions have exacerbated inequalities in nature, making it more for some and less for others. While the privileged few have access to private and public gardens and natural spaces, those living in slums of big cities like Mumbai, Mexico and Dhaka have to contend with drain water in the name of streams and inexpensive plastic replica of Christmas trees for their visual green treat.
Notwithstanding slums, flats and apartments in these cities, which house more than 50% of the world population, also limit the possibility of enjoying nature’s visual and experiential treat. Schoolkids may have to trudge several miles to reach green spaces on Sundays when they are free from school, but that time competes with other social obligations. Is there a possibility to bring nature closer home and make #natureforall truly accessible to all?
The ubiquitous money plant happily offers a solution. The plant, called the Devil’s Ivy, has been rechristened in some parts of the world as the ‘Money plant’ because of its powers to attract good luck, which some people associate with money. Some say that the leaves look like coins; hence the ‘money’ connection. Traditional practices like Feng Shui and Vaastu advocate the use of this plant for increasing prosperity. These practices also suggest the location and direction in which the plant is to be kept to optimize prosperity.
Photo courtesy of Jawed Haider Mallick
Let me rather focus on the ability of this plant to create an intimate relationship between nature and the young and old inhabitants of the house. As a plant with large, green leaves, the money plant does not simply stop at purifying the indoor air. It likes sunny places, but not direct sunlight. But it is so stubborn that even if perennially kept in the shade, it does not die, thereby earning the label ‘Devil’s Ivy’. You grow it in a garden, it grows so beautifully. You cut a stem and plant it in another pot, it remains as alive. You stick it in a bottle of water, it continues to grow. And continues to spread its green mission and exchange of poisonous gases for oxygen, thereby spreading positive energy across the house. It adorns the bedroom window; helps you concentrate on your work when you place it on your study table, relieves stress and has also proven to make your bathroom visit a pleasant one.
For the millions living in single, cramped rooms, installing the money plant establishes their first connection with nature. All one needs to do is to take a cutting of a money plant and replant it in a pot. Start with a pot because the plant grows best in a pot. After it takes root in a couple of months, keep cutting branches and creating new spaces for them across your house. You can use recycled bottles, pots, broken bowls, utensils or for that matter you can innovate new spaces to grow new cuttings.
We have been encouraging children to grow money plants in their homes and their families to jointly design new spaces for new cuttings. That way, children’s intrinsic connection with nature has been nurtured. Motivating them to grow these plants in unused or recycled pots enhanced their interest in recycling. Asking them to decorate the pots, pans and bottles by painting on them has also augmented their artistic talents.
We noticed that once they started growing money plants inside their houses, their interest and curiosity in nature increased. They started to relate to what they read in textbooks on nature and develop a practical understanding of conservation. Growing the ubiquitous money plant can be the preliminary step in transforming #NatureForAll from a hashtag to a pragmatic ‘nature for all’.