Why Practice Natural History?

The Aesthetic Roots of Natural History

Gordon H. OriansDownload PDF | Volume 7, 2013

The first song of a male Red-winged Blackbird in late winter reminds me of the many hours I have spent among these birds studying their social lives and trying to discover the meanings of their alarm and contact calls and songs. What messages were the males communicating, to whom were they signaling, how did other individuals respond to the messages, and how did their responses influence their success? Those hours were among the happiest of my life, but why was what superficially might appear to be a rather boring task so pleasurable? The answer lies in the distant past. [full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Clare Walker LeslieDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Today, I have come to Mount Auburn to see what is here – no lions, no tigers. Just minutes away from the daily business of my usual life, I enter a world so different from where I have just been – into the calming presence of chickadees, robins, a catbird, bumblebee, turtle, fall asters, and drone of cicadas. Nothing special – everything special …
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Why Practice Natural History?

Seeing the Natural History Way

Laura SewallDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Perception is one of the greatest of all natural gifts. It provides continuous flows of energy and information—enhancing facets of the environment, directing our movements, and providing pleasure to most mammals. It is as diverse as are species and individuals, and in humans it is ideally made up of beautiful forms and saturated colors, sweet and erotic scents, the easy cadence of crickets, and clear survival signals. … I am now suggesting that such shifts in perceptual capacity—or rather, the recovery of our finely evolved sensory abilities—feed forward into shifts in consciousness. With an eye tuned to pattern, movement, beauty, and the secret lives of birds and bees, the world brightens and beckons, and what one values becomes a matter of where one stands, literally, and of the wilder and complex relations there. The fact of interdependence—between pollinators, flowers, and food; between birds, fish, coastal waters, and coastal communities—is witnessed directly and becomes deeply known. No longer abstract, our mutual dependence may then inform our behavior, and upholding the common good becomes enlightened self-interest. [full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

Why Natural History Matters

Thomas L. FleischnerDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

The world needs natural history now more than ever. Because natural history – which I have defined as “a practice of intentional focused attentiveness and receptivity to the more-than-human world, guided by honesty and accuracy” (Fleischner 2001, 2005) – makes us better, more complete human beings. This process of “careful, patient … sympathetic observation” (Norment 2008) – paying attention to the larger than human world – allows us to build better human societies, ones that are less destructive and dysfunctional. Natural history helps us see the world, and thus ourselves, more accurately. Moreover, it encourages and inspires better stewardship of the Earth. [full article]

Why Practice Natural History?

Rewilding Natural History

Peter H. Kahn, Jr. and Patricia H. HasbachDownload PDF | Volume 5, 2011

Many people who currently advocate for nature, and for the importance of nature in human lives, focus on what can be termed domestic, nearby, everyday nature. Nature might be a favorite tree in one’s neighborhood, or a local park, or one’s garden, or one’s pet, or what Tallmadge (2004) refers to as the “buzzing, flapping, scurrying, chewing, photosynthesizing life forms” all around us in the urban landscape. Domestic nature is important. It’s what most of us have close at hand. People can relate to it. People can garner immediate benefits by accessing it. But truth be told, domestic nature is only half the story. It’s only half of what we need. [full article]

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