Friday, July 19, 2013

"Learning to read the city" with John Tallmadge and the Center for Humans and Nature

One of the folks I met on the Hegewisch Marsh tour is Gavin Van Horn, a director at a thoughtful, heady sort of thinktank called the Center for Humans and Nature. Gavin described the organization's work as exploring ethics and nature; its website explains that it partners with "philosophers, biologists, ecologists, lawyers, political scientists, anthropologists, and economists" to explore the relationships between humans and nature--"to think creatively about how people can make better decisions."

They do this through projects, events, and writings via their journal and blog--and by posing thought-provoking questions that scholars and experts in various fields then answer, and that readers are also invited to comment on. One of their recent questions is "How is nature critical to a 21st-century urban ethic?" This question drew me, since, as you will know if you've been following my blog, I've been exploring ways educators incorporate urban green spaces and other nature into K-12 education. And this answer, penned by nature writer and scholar John Tallmadge,  just said it all for me. I tried to pull quotes but it's so lovely and wise and true in its whole that I didn't want to pull it apart. Just read it.

And once you've read it, then (and only then--seriously, go to the link first. You won't regret it) reread its final words:
So the real question is not how to bring nature back into our cities; it’s already there. It’s what makes every neighborhood, no matter how blighted, a landscape of opportunity. All we have to do is wake up and embrace the possibilities. Make ecological literacy a core value of education and reconciliation ecology a guiding principle of design. That will take us a long way toward preserving the world through an urban practice of the wild.

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