Monday thought of the week: collecting nature

A thought:

One of the rules in visiting… many nature areas… is the following: “Take only memories, leave only footprints: all rocks, plants, animals, and historic artifacts in the park are protected; plants and flowers may not be picked, and animals may not be injured, killed, fed, or harassed. Please leave them here, as you found them, for others to enjoy.” This rule – take only memories, leave only footprints – makes some sense if we want to prevent direct harms to an ecosystem. But it comes at cost to the individual. Namely, there is a simple but lovely form of interaction with nature, which often begins in childhood, that involves collecting small objects from places that one visits. Sometimes children build a large collection of such objects, and classify them, and study them. Such forms of interaction can set into motion a life-long scientific inquiry into the natural world. Sometimes these objects, for children and adults, hold important memories of special times. The new “environmental” message – “take only memories, leave only footprints” – helps to prevent harm to an ecosystem, but it comes at a human cost, not large, but not so small either, by causing a harm of unfulfilled flourishing: the experience and satisfaction of collecting parts of nature.

– Peter Kahn, “Why Do We Need Wild Nature?” Psychology Today (January 17, 2011); Kahn explores nature connection in Technological Nature: Adaptation and the Future of Human Life (2011) and his edited volumes, Ecopsychology: Science, Totems, and the Technological Species (2012) and The Rediscovery of the Wild (2013)

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2 Responses to Monday thought of the week: collecting nature

  1. Diana says:

    Yes. I often think this as well, Michael. I do not have children myself but when I bring my nature groups into natural areas I always remind them to tread softly. My own fondest memories of nature are the times when my family went out and turned over rocks, fed the ducks in the pond, found interesting rocks to add to my rock collection, and picked wildflowers to place in a vase in our home. I wonder what memories I would have if I was not allowed to do those things? Something to ponder upon. I guess we have to find new ways for children to have meaningful interactions with nature and I hope we are all doing that.

    • darwinsbulldog says:

      We just got back from the weekend at the Oregon coast. Patrick has a bag full of broken sand dollars, rocks, other shells, crab claws, etc. Would his experience along the beach in the pouring rain and wind be the same had I told him not to collect anything. These treasures will be added to a container of other ocean treasures, and when he looks through it from time to time, he’ll remember that place.

      Thanks for your comment, Diana!

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