288 pages, 33 b/w illustrations
Human health and wellbeing is inextricably linked to nature; our connection to the natural world is part of our biological inheritance. In this engaging book, a pioneer in the field of biophilia – the study of human beings' inherent affinity for nature – sets forth the first full account of nature's powerful influence on the quality of our lives. Steven Kellert asserts that our capacities to think, feel, communicate, create, and find meaning in life all depend upon our relationship to nature.
And yet, our increasing disconnection and alienation from nature reflects how greatly we have undervalued its important role in our lives. Weaving scientific findings together with personal experiences and perspectives, Kellert explores specific human tendencies, including affection, aversion, intellect, control, aesthetics, exploitation, spirituality, and communication, to discover how they are influenced by our relationship with nature.
He observes that a beneficial relationship to nature is not instinctive and must be earned, and he discusses how we can restore the balance in our relationship to nature by means of initiatives in areas as varied as childhood development, education, conservation, building design, ethics, and everyday life. Kellert's moving book provides exactly what is needed now: a fresh understanding of how much our essential humanity relies on being a part of nature.
"Kellert challenges our 'adversarial' approach to nature with an exploration of eight ways in which we derive meaning from it, from attraction to exploitation [...] This is a nuanced analysis punctuated with insightful personal narratives."
"I cried as I read Birthright [...] So expressively and delicately does Kellert expose the emotional bonds among nature, humanity, and the individual that it's difficult not to be moved."
– Daniel J. Witter, D. J. Case & Associates
"This is a great distillation of decades of scholarship on what might be thought of as "biophilia and beyond." This book will be of great interest to the growing public who sense that we have become too separate from nature."
– Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor, George Mason University and Biodiversity Chair, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment
"No one has learned more about the intricate relations of the human to nature, as expressed in our architecture, our relation to animals, and the shaping of aesthetics than Stephen Kellert."
– E. O. Wilson, Professor of Biology Emeritus, Harvard University, and author, Social Conquest of Earth
"Birthright eloquently, clearly, and persuasively makes the case for the fundamental importance of humanity's experiences with nature throughout life. This is the first time I've seen such an effective effort to provide a personal explanation that artfully uses everyday examples. Kellert's book will resonate with a wide variety of readers."
– Cheryl Charles, President and CEO, Children & Nature Network
"Birthright is truly magnificent in so many ways. The empirical and intuitive are seamlessly woven together throughout. The book made me want to do something beautiful in the world! "
– Gretel Van Wieren, Michigan State University
"Stephen Kellert's heartfelt Birthright is a moving memoir, a finely tuned analysis, and a gift to future generations and to the individuals and organizations determined to usher in a twenty-first-century human-nature reunion. Here is a topological map of that future."
– Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and chairman emeritus of the Children & Nature Network
"Stephen R. Kellert invites readers on a companionable journey into neighborhood and urban center to reveal how biophilic design can help restore our ancient, beneficial relationship with the natural world."
– Terril Shorb, Ph.D., Prescott College
"This is a must-read for anyone who cares about the world and how to enrich our connection with the forces that sustain us."
– Alison Hawthorne Deming, University of Arizona
"Kellert successfully portrays his spiritual unity with the plants, animals, and elements that embrace and refresh him."
– Publishers Weekly
"An exploration of the specific ways in which a connection with the natural world affects the well-being of humankind [...] Kellert isn't advocating for a Luddite existence, but he argues convincingly for an increased understanding of our place as part of nature rather than just conquerors of it."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Birthright reinforces the importance of nature in a healthy, fulfilling life and is an illuminating read that will resonate with lovers of the outdoors."
– Jack Fisher, The Leader, National Outdoor Leadership School
"[T]his is a very thought-provoking book [...] Kellert draws both on his personal opinions/observations as well as published peer-review literature. And it's his personal interjections that infuse this book with a sense of wonderment and respect for the natural world [...] By revealing his humanity in relation to nature, he helped me to better understand a bit of mine."
– T. DeLene Beeland, Wild Muse
"Birthright has much to recommend it, including its synthesis of Kellert's many areas of expertise, its non-technical language, and its advocacy of an argument deserving of a hearing."
– Christian Diehm, Biological Conservation
"Kellert's book will stimulate you not only how to rethink your life and its values, but how you might increase wonder in your life right now."
– Kevin T. McEneaney, The Millbrook Independent
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Stephen R. Kellert is Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus and senior research scholar, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University. His many previous publications include Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life.