Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nature or Nurture?

Here's a question that's been puzzling me: What impulse drives certain individuals to adopt the naturalist persuasion? Three long months ago I was writing about how we get interested in Nature, what makes us become naturalists. Rather than update that old post, I'll add some new links here:

Dave at Osage + Orange writes today about his mom's influence on his interest in Nature.

Another Dave in a different state seems to have been the fortunate recipient of a similar family mentoring process, most likely aided by solitude in the woods.

And, of course, we know that others find their own way. In our discussion of the role of books, Matt of Sitka Nature commented aptly:

In a culture with a sad lack of personal natural history elders/mentors, through their books, authors are able to play that role. They provide a greater context and allow for a more rapid depth of understanding of those things that I observe outside.
I've often thought about my own fascination and where it could have arisen. Search as I can within the family history, I find no evidence of a deep attachment to Nature in my ancestors. Neither parent, neither sibling, has a similar level of enthusiasm. One (of 19 on one side; 4 on the other) in my generation of cousins seems to share the interest; only one I can think of in the following generation as well. Perhaps I just don't know my relatives well enough, but even if there were five times as many, it still seems a paltry level of interest.

As we contemplate Richard Louv's thesis, understanding how to generate—and support— that interest becomes paramount. Fred First is working on a book of ideas for "bridging the Nature gap" by sharing Nature with children, but what of the children who have intense interest but are alone in their pursuit? In these days of restricted environments and curtailed freedom, will they find their own way to Nature as we did?

Footnote in 2009: Fred's beautiful—and inspiring—book on connecting children with their natural surroundings, at last report, has failed to find a publisher! Do check out this amazing project at the link above.