SWEET-SWEAT speculates on the possibilities for a new type of human adapted to a salty habitat. Anecdotes, news stories and philosophical concoctions provide snippets into a multiverse in which we discover how we can learn to act as many organisms have done for centuries. Can we adapt to a saltier landscape and what might the ‘salt-loving human’ look like?

For the Netherlands, a salinifying climate is a real situation. As humans, we adapt the landscape to our desires and needs, without moving with the developments of our country. On the coast, we find many salt-loving plant species, also known as halophytes, which have adaptive qualities to survive in extreme conditions. What can we as humans learn from plants that have been climate adaptive to a changing environment over the centuries?

Salt is a fundamental building block for humans, plants and animals. Salt in the landscape determines how we can live in this environment. What can we as humans learn from salt-tolerant and salt-loving plants that have been climate-adaptive to a changing habitat over the centuries? How might the climate-adaptive properties and mechanisms that plants have made their own serve as a trigger for human evolution? Cultivating wild plants into innovative crops has always depended on human desires. But what would happen if we shift the perspective back to that of a plant?

In an inquisitive way, de Onkruidenier has been delving into the halotolerance of plants that can grow and survive close to the coastline since 2015. Nowadays, many people live in delta areas or even below sea level and are committed to keeping out the influences of climate change and sea level rise as much as possible. We flush our polders with fresh water to reduce saline intrusion and we reinforce our dykes to protect ourselves from floods with salty seawater, simply because humans are not equal to salt. To what extent in our human evolution have we factored in a scenario where fresh water becomes scarcer and sea level rise forces us to look at our environment differently? What can humans learn from the evolving qualities of halotolerant plants, which even harness the salt entering their system to benefit from it? When you realise that 97% of all the water on earth is salty, wouldn’t it make much more sense for humans to find a way to settle in saline environments? Can plants provide us with new insights about the human relationship with our rapidly changing environment?