Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nature & Human Nature

There is a great article by Gordon Orians in the spring edition of Daedalus entitled "Nature & Human Nature". Orians, an eminent biologist, has long defended the view that human beings have an evolved preference for certain landscapes, primarily, ones that were fitness enhancing to our ancestors living on the African savanna. Orians traces the intellectual history of human beings' relationship to the environment, outlines the evolutionary psychological view and then relates it to conservation efforts. His view, incidentally, has much in common with E. O. Wilson's biophilia hypothesis. Orians' conclusion:
We are unlikely to care about our environments and other species and be motivated to preserve them unless we live and interact with them and directly experience how they enrich our lives. Conservation success in the United States will depend to a large degree on our willingness to exploit options that fall under 'reconciliation ecology.' Reconciliation ecology is the science of inventing, establishing, and maintaining new habitats to conserve species diversity in places where people live, work, and play. Reconciliation ecology is an applied science that assists us in designing habitats so that we can share them with other species. As the ancient Chinese sage said: "The careful foot can walk anywhere." Nature needs us to walk carefully. So does human nature.

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