This chronicle of natural history argues that the modern environmental crisis and rise in science skepticism codeveloped with the rise of ever narrower scientific disciplines
For millennia, the field of natural history promoted a knowledgeable and unifying view of the world. In contrast, the modern rise of narrow scientific disciplines has promoted a dichotomy between nature and culture on the one hand and between scientific and folk knowledge on the other. Drawing on the fields of anthropology, history, and environmental science, Michael R. Dove argues that the loss of this historic holistic vision of the world is partly to blame for contemporary environmental degradation and science skepticism.
Dove bases this thesis on a study of four pioneering natural historians across four centuries: Georg Eberhard Rumphius (seventeenth century), Carl Linnaeus (eighteenth century), Alfred Russel Wallace (nineteenth century), and Harold C. Conklin (twentieth century). Dove studies their field craft and writing; the political, cultural, and environmental circumstances in which they worked; the sources of their insight; and the implications of their work for modern society. Most of all, the book seeks to discover what enabled those natural historians to straddle boundaries that today seem impassable and to distill that wisdom for a modern world greatly in need of a holistic vision of people and environment.
Michael R. Dove is the Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology and professor and curator of anthropology at Yale University, and author of Bitter Shade: The Ecological Challenge of Human Consciousness. He has carried out decades of field research in Asia and now lives in Killingworth, CT.
“Michael R. Dove brilliantly extracts the threads that both connect and separate natural histories, bringing to life their intellectual currents and legacies. This is a startlingly original book by one of the world’s leading anthropologists.”—J. Stephen Lansing, coauthor of Islands of Order: A Guide to Complexity Modeling for the Social Sciences
“Michael R. Dove presents an elegant, erudite, and thoroughly engaging book about the field of natural history. His goal is nothing less than healing the modern breach between natural history and natural science.”—James Gustave Speth, former dean, Yale School of the Environment, and former administrator, United Nations Development Programme
“An enchanting account of the research and storytelling practices of four eminent natural historians across the last three centuries. Michael Dove shows us how a curiosity that ranges from folk tales to botany, from trade to digging sticks, is invaluable in an era of global environmental change and distrust in science.”—Andrew S. Mathews, author of Trees are Shapeshifters: How Cultivation, Climate Change and Disaster Create Landscapes
“Michael Dove shows that natural history has its own history—a history of attentive listening that bridges deep divides. By showing how naturalists and Indigenous Peoples developed spaces of knowledge exchange, he helps us find ways to create such spaces in our own times, when they are urgently needed.”—Ben Orlove, author of Darkening Peaks: Glacier Retreat, Science, and Society
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