reading natural history is a political act

Thursday, March 17, 2016

In these hazy days of ongoing exhaustion, I've turned to natural history and science—cures in the face of mind-boggling news. In particular, I've been reading Andrea Wulf's The Invention of Nature, the much-lauded biography of Alexander von Humboldt; re-reading Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust; and settling in with a book that has long sat unread on my shelf, Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard.

On every page of these very different books lie warnings about what happens when we ignore the interconnectivity of man and nature, trees and air, the rhythms of our bodies and the patterns of our thoughts. Narrow ambition is mostly catastrophic. An incapacity for awe is inhumane. A trampling of others as we advance ourselves will have unbearable, forseeable consequences. The future of us depends on looking close, and listening well.

It's a political season. Let natural history be our guide.


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