Big Ideas


7 min read

Welcome to the Big Ideas stage. Tune in to these talks for thought-provoking discussions with leaders in their fields - including an environmentalist, plant physiologist and neurobiologist, herbalist and even a philosopher - about topics with far-reaching implications. For example, do we really understand the full scale of what nature does for us? Are plants cognitive entities? And why are fungi so integral to making wine? Find out more below.

Sunday, December 5, 2021
A short welcome from our founder Isabelle Legeron MW at the beginning of the first talk.
What has Nature ever done for us?
For too long many have regarded a healthy environment as a nice to have, with the loss of wildlife, damage to ecosystems and pollution of air and water as regrettable, but nonetheless inevitable, and the price we must pay for progress. Modern science tells us, however, that this is a very dangerous misconception, with damage to the biosphere and atmosphere now reaching dangerous levels to the point where our entire social and economic systems are at risk. From pollination of crops to the purification of water and from the capture of carbon to the inspiration for cutting edge technologies, Nature supports our wellbeing at every turn, and protecting the natural systems that do all this and much more is now a top global priority. All sectors of society have a role in seeking solutions, but first we need a change of perspective, to see healthy and intact Nature as the most important asset that humankind has, rather than as now where it is mainly seen as a source of resources and place to dump waste.

Duration: 56 minutes
How Plants Grow and Move – Is this Behavior?
Liz Van Volkenburgh starts this discussion with a brief presentation of how plants grow, and move. This includes three significantly ‘planty’ features: cell structure, electrical signaling, and responses to the environment.

Paco Calvo introduces the philosophical perspective of plant behavior, then begins a conversation with Liz to explore the ways these two approaches to what we know about plants can be harnessed to discover whether and how plants are cognitive.

*An introduction to plant physiology and plant neurobiology.

Duration: 59 minutes
Planta Sapiens (or why good wine needs no bush)
Grapevines take action autonomously according to their own needs. Their behavior is truly flexible and anticipatory. Vines can navigate their surroundings courtesy of their sensory apparatus, and are able to adapt in a fast, and yet coordinated manner, despite lacking neurones. Their excitable vascular system forms a complex information-processing network that allows them to coordinate and integrate information signaling from root to shoot, and to take appropriate action as the need arises. The potential for such excitable network is currently unknown, and yet exciting. Today we know for instance that plants are subject to reversible anesthetic treatment. In fact, it is possible that the origins of subjectivity date back to the origins of life itself. Against zoocentric biases, Paco's talk explores the very possibility and consequences of such idea; an approach that may ultimately bear upon our understanding of life and cognition more broadly, reaching all the way from single cell organisms to homo and planta sapiens.

*An exploration of plant sentience.

Duration: 60 minutes
Flower Power - Why plants deserve rights too
In this talk, Alessandra Viola, co-author of Stefano Mancuso’s Brilliant Green, explains the historical context of plant sciences, as well as providing an overview of why this thinking is so outdated. Given the latest scientific discoveries, a new understanding of what plants are all about is emerging in the world of plant sciences, which has profound implications in terms of ethics. After all, if plants are not all that different from animals and humans, why aren’t their rights enshrined in law as well?

Duration: 61 minutes
Growing a Revolution to Reverse the Erosion of Civilizations
Throughout history, societies that did not take care of their soil did not last as tillage based agriculture degraded soil organic matter and predisposed soils to erosion by wind or rain. While soil degradation remains an urgent global problem we don’t have to repeat the lessons from past. Examples from farms in the industrialized and developing worlds show how integrating no-till planting and cover crops into diverse crop rotations can restore soil health and profitably rebuild soil organic matter, cultivate beneficial soil life, and suppress pests while using far less fossil fuel, fertilizer and pesticide. Combining ancient wisdom with modern science, regenerative practices good for farmers and the environment can help restore life to the soil, feed us all, and cool the planet.

Duration: 60 minutes
The Hidden Half of Nature, Inside and Out
Agricultural practices profoundly influence levels of phytochemicals, nutrients, and other compounds in crops and livestock. When we feed the grand symbiotic partnership between the botanical world and the soil microbiome, it ripples through to the human diet providing taste receptors as well as our gut microbiota with high quality intelligence. As a consequence, we reap well-being—from the conscious pleasure of complex flavors in food and beverages to the way taste receptors in our major organ systems inform and build human body wisdom.

Duration: 58 minutes
See you tomorrow
A short closing message at the end of Day 1.
Monday, December 6, 2021
Welcome back!
Hello again and welcome back to Day 2 of RAW WINE Alive!
Entangled Life
Thinking about fungi makes the world look different. Most fungi live out of sight, yet make up a massively diverse kingdom of organisms that support and sustain nearly all living systems. Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and help remediate environmental disaster. In this discussion with the award-winning journalist Howie Kahn, Merlin discusses the ways these extraordinary organisms – and our relationships with them – change our understanding of the planet on which we live, and the ways that we think, feel, and behave.

Duration: 55 minutes
Finding the Mother Tree
Based on her incredible book and her research at The Mother Tree Project, Dr. Suzanne Simard shares her moving and deeply personal journey of discovering the interconnectedness of trees, explaining how they behave in many ways with characteristics ascribed to human intelligence and civil societies.

Duration: 56 minutes
Let’s Return to a True Taste of Wine
For Nicolas Joly, the world of wine faces two existential threats – a changing climate and the insidious effects of modern technology, which mask the true expression of a vine. How can biodynamic techniques help winemakers adapt to a warming planet? And what can we do to restore the original concept of an appellation contrôlée, degraded by the widespread use of lab-bred yeasts and vine clones? Nicolas says: “Each place where biodynamics is well practised is like a needle of acupuncture for life forces".

Duration: 59 minutes
How to Connect with Plants
Plants and all of Nature “speak” through metaphors and images; they are communicating all the time.  To “hear” them requires awareness of and sensitization of the invisible perceptive capacity of the feeling sense that has become atrophied for so many in the West. This talk includes an experiential component so participants can get a sense of what it is like to interact with plants in this way.

Duration: 49 minutes
Why organics isn't enough
For 10 years, the VinNatur Association has worked with a group of agronomists, botanists, biologists, and entomologists from Vitenova Vine Wellness to monitor the composition and fertility of soils, insect populations and the biodiversity of spontaneous plants in the vineyards of its members.

Results are compared year-on-year, not only for the specific vineyard from which the data is collected but also across the board, comparing findings from vineyards in similar regions. The result? A better understanding of the real impact a grower’s vineyard management style has on their vineyard.

Following a decade of data collection and analysis, the lessons learned are illuminating. Join Stefano Amadeo (Vitenova) and Emma Bentley (VinNatur) as they share their discoveries and explain why truly sustainable viticulture needs more than a simple organic approach.

Duration: 55 minutes
Do-nothing Farming (日本語)
(Original language - Japanese). 福岡大樹氏。「無の哲学」を提唱し、世界の農業者に影響を与えた「わら一本の革命」の著者でもある福岡正信氏のお孫さんです。大樹氏は現在10ヘクタールほどの福岡正信農園を経営し、お米や小麦、野菜、柑橘類などの果物などを生産しています。自然農法の本質とは「無の哲学」でありこの概念を理解せずに自然農法を理解することは難しく、自然とは感覚的で精神的なものだと語っています。大樹氏の興味のある話をぜひ聞いてみてください。

再生時間: 61分
Do-nothing Farming (ENG)
(Simultaneous interpretation - English). Hiroki is the grandson of the late Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher who wrote the seminal book ‘The One-Straw Revolution’, in which he advocated the concept of do-nothing farming. Hiroki still runs the 10-hectare family farm, where he grows citrus, wheat, rice and vegetables. He says: “The essence of natural farming is a “philosophy of nothingness”, and it is difficult to understand natural farming without understanding this concept, which is a feeling and almost spiritual in nature.” Discover more in this fascinating talk.

Duration: 61 minutes
Cheerio, pip pip
A short farewell message from our founder Isabelle Legeron MW.

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