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BIRTHRIGHT by Stephen R. Kellert

BIRTHRIGHT

People and Nature in the Modern World

By Stephen R. Kellert

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-300-17654-4
Publisher: Yale Univ.

An exploration of the specific ways in which a connection with the natural world affects the well-being of humankind.

Kellert (Forestry and Environmental Studies Emeritus/Yale Univ.; Borrowed Knowledge: Chaos Theory and the Challenge of Learning across Disciplines, 2008) has established bona fides in studies of the many ways humans interact with, and are deeply impacted by, the natural world. Building on his prior work in biophilia (“the inherent inclination to affiliate with the natural world instrumental to people’s physical and mental health, productivity, and well being”), the author moves beyond the ancillary effects into how deeply rooted our connections to nature are and the effects on our individual and cultural lives of disconnection from that world. Pulling from a multitude of disciplines, including psychology, spirituality and design, Kellert combines theories and practical applications for changing our relation to nature in a range of settings. Interludes provide anecdotal stories—some fiction, others not—to illustrate the ideas. Some of the interludes fall flat, reading as flimsy fiction working too hard to "prove" an idea. Others succeed—e.g., incorporating E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan into the discussion brings the chapter on symbolism into clear focus. Beyond purely aesthetic appeal, the author gives due consideration to our urge for dominion, an amplified spirituality that places humans in the context of something greater than ourselves and a simultaneous scientific urge to extract understanding of life.

Kellert isn't advocating for a Luddite existence, but he argues convincingly for an increased understanding of our place as part of nature rather than just conquerors of it.