Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Kellert’

Remembering Stephen Kellert

Friday, December 2nd, 2016
A yellow-rumped warbler

A yellow-rumped warbler

Stephen R. Kellert, “biophilia” scholar and lifelong champion of the natural world, died on Sunday, November 27, 2016 of multiple myeloma. I learned of his death yesterday from a lovely post by Richard Louv and The Children and Nature Network.

I met Steve on a chilly spring day in April, 2012 at his home in New Haven, Connecticut. He greeted me warmly and led me to the living room/study, where the proofs from his latest manuscript, Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World, lay on the desk to my right. I wish I had a greater memory for visual details. What color was the sofa I sat on? Did he sit in a wooden chair, or was it upholstered? What were some of the books that lined the wall behind him? He wore wide-wale corduroy trousers, which struck me as perfectly professorial, but was he really wearing a tweed blazer with elbow patches, or is that just my imagination? He was, after all, the Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

What I remember most clearly was the picture window, maybe 6 feet tall by 10 feet wide, that took up most of the back living room wall. Through it we could see his wild yard, and beyond that the Mill River and East Rock, a long, tall cliff that rises dramatically from the riverbank. We talked for an hour or so, about his new book, and another co-edited book that had just come out–Companions in Wonder. And about the role of the sacred, and spirituality, in people’s interaction with nature and how difficult that can be for academics to address. I asked him how he was able to do it, and he smiled mischievously: At this point in his career, he could do what he wanted. He expressed his concerns about “evidence-based design” and the danger of reducing things like nature connection and the benefits of time outdoors to mere numbers. In science, including EBD, people have a low tolerance for ambiguity, which may deprive us of the delicious complexity that nature, and our relationship to it, has to offer.

And then something caught his eye and he leaped from his chair to the window for a better view of the first yellow-rumped warbler of the season. He explained, while reaching for binoculars, that their migration had just begun and it was his first sighting of the year. He offered me the binoculars and guided my eyes to the small black and white bird with flashes of bright yellow on its head, wings, and, yes, rump. We settled back down to talk but more warblers kept distracting him. When he apologized, I refused to accept–Are you kidding, I said, what better way to know Stephen R. Kellert than to share in the delight of nature in that moment in his own back yard?

If you haven’t yet read anything by this giant in our field, you might start with Birthright. I also strongly recommend one of the “bibles,” The Biophilia Hypothesis, which he co-edited with E. O. Wilson. And read Wilson’s Biophilia while you’re at it. Kellert’s film, Biophilic Design, is excellent. And the list goes on and on. While it’s tempting to say “a light has gone out” or something to that effect, I really don’t think it’s true in Steve’s case. His teaching, writing, and advocacy still shines brightly, and I know it always will.

Please honor Steve’s commitment to the natural world by supporting The Wilderness Society, 1615 M Street, Washington DC 20036.

Photo from http://www.biologicalcapital.com/board/dr-stephen-r-kellert/

Photo from http://www.biologicalcapital.com/board/dr-stephen-r-kellert/

‘Birthright’ by Stephen Kellert – Book review by Lisa Horne

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

This excellent book review of ‘Birthright’ is by Lisa Horne, ASLA

Birthright cover. Image Source: Yale University PressAs the keynote at the 2013 national American Society of Landscape Architects annual meeting and expo in Boston, Stephen Kellert gave a provocative presentation for the profession. “Biophilia” is a relatively new concept in design and Kellert’s recent work Birthright gives a heartwarming survey of ideas with relevancy to design and theory.

Birthright provides a basis for incorporating nature into our lives. Kellert leaves classifications of nature open-ended and defines biophilia as a love of life. We have an innate desire for nature, which is “a birthright that must be cultivated and earned” (Kellert xiii). This attitude neither advocates a return to an Arcadian past nor forecasts apocalyptic doom. Instead, he asserts that humans will recognize their own self-interest and benefit from investing in the environment. An audience of academics, leaders, policy makers, and professionals interested in biophilia will appreciate the pace, text, and reasoning. (more…)