Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World

Stephen R. Kellert. Yale Univ., $32.50 (264p) ISBN 978-0-300-17654-4
Kellert (Biophilic Design), emeritus professor at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, developed, together with E.O. Wilson, the concept of biophilia, which he describes as “a complex process encompassing an array of values and qualities that constitute a broader affiliation.” Kellert proposes that the “fundamental ways we attach meaning to and derive benefit from the natural world” are “attraction, reason, aversion, exploitation, affection, dominion, spirituality, and symbolism,” and the bulk of this book describes these qualities and how they define, create, and necessitate human/nature relations. This rather dry exposition is leavened by “interludes”: illustrative personal stories that offer compelling autobiographical revelations. The text comes to life in the final chapters, where Kellert moves beyond defining terms to discuss childhood, design, and ethics. These chapters are dominated by captivating, revelatory stories: a wren who mysteriously comforted him when, at the age of six, his father died; a serendipitous encounter at adolescence with an elderly farmer who introduced him, through farm and forest rambles, to the intricate web of life; and his unexpected leap at middle age from a middle manager at a smalltown bank to transforming his town through a visionary, ecologically, and socially supportive plan to revitalize the harbor and downtown. Kellert successfully portrays his spiritual unity with the plants, animals, and elements that embrace and refresh him. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 242 pages - 978-0-300-20579-4
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-300-18894-3
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