INTRO to -> Field Guide to Nature


The typical field guide serves as a handy tool for identifying things: flora, fauna, rocks & minerals, celestial objects.  Carrying such a guide provides the naturalist convenient access to information that can support observations and answer questions.  The book becomes a voluble and wise companion for the intellectually curious wanderer.

Nowadays, many of us have little relation to such guides.  Learning about the components of a particular domain of the natural world seems the prerogative of specialists.  Most of the time, responses to any question about a plant or an animal are only a few keystrokes away.  An occasional species, endangered, or cutely telegenic, may come to our attention, but as a fragment: the comprehensive view provided by a field guide qualifies as ‘too much information’.

It may be then that what we lack is a very particular field guide: a field guide to nature.  Not to this or that part of it, but to our views of what it is (and what it is not), where it is (and where it is not.) Examining cultural objects that relate to nature and popular attitudes toward nature might permit us to begin to understand some aspects of the contemporary conception of nature.  With that aim, the entries compiled here humbly propose to begin to guide the reader to an understanding of this conception, of what is nature now.


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