Chapter 1 - The Origins of Sustainability
Part 2 - The Great Naturalists
Seven to ten thousand years ago, the Neolithic Revolution led early humans into the first agricultural revolution. This revolution in lifestyle was a transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Intensifying the use of land must have required the need for understanding the world as they knew it, and communicating that knowledge to the next generation, for simple survival. Learning the limits for survival is most certainly, an instinct to sustain.
Throughout human history, our knowledge of nature - and the potential for human impact - has steadily grown. Although we are still discovering the complex and wonderful bounty of nature on Earth, we have as a foundation, …that knowledge from earlier generations, who also marveled at the great composition of nature. As if by some universal imperative, we wonder about the world around us, …about this pale blue dot in the universe. We see this great work of art …and we seek to understand the painting …and the palette; the seen and the unseen. In all its secretive wonder, nature both tempts us with her meaning, and her glory.
It was the 19th century poet Walt Whitman who said:
“You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds, and trees and flowers, and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness—perhaps ignorance, credulity—helps your enjoyment of these things.”
In the past few millennia, humankind has benefited from a special group of people who we call “the great naturalists.” Observers of the world around them, these great naturalists studied, chronicled, …and wondered. Humankind has benefited from their curiosity, their discipline, and their sense of adventure in a journey without a map. The passion for knowledge of the great naturalists has helped us learn our limits for survival, and nurture our own instinct to sustain.
- Aristotle, naturalist philosopher (384-322 BCE), Historia Animalium; Metereologica
- Theophrastus, naturalist philosopher (c. 372-288 BCE), Historia Plantarium, The Father of Botany
- Pliny the Elder, naturalist philosopher (23-79 CE), Historia Naturalis, The Father of Pharmacology and Herbalism
- Pedanios Dioscorides (c. 40-90 CE), De Materia Medica
- Andrea Cesalpino, botanist (1519-1603), De Plantis Libri
- Maria Sibylla Merian, entomologist (1647-1717), Metamorphosis
- Carl Linnaeus, naturalist and taxonomist (I1707-1778), Philosophia Botanica
- Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838), The Journals of Lewis and Clark
- Alexander von Humbolt, naturalist, (1769-1859), Kosmos
- John James Audubon, artist and naturalist, (1785-1851), The Birds of America
- Charles Darwin, naturalist (1809-1882), On the Origin of Species
- Henry David Thoreau, naturalist (1817-1862), Walden
- Alfred Russel Wallace, naturalist (1823-1913), The Geographical Distribution of Animals
- John Muir, naturalist and engineer (1838-1914), Our National Parks, Cofounder of the Sierra Club
- Aldo Leopold, ecologist (1887-1948), A Sand County Almanac
- Rachel Carson (1907-1964), Silent Spring
- A partial list...