‘the naturalist’s path’

note: being an american, zwinger refers to undergrad universities as colleges.

‘[in the 19th century] one followed the naturalist’s path for the love of doing and the joy of learning, not for the profit…. it provided intellectual challenges and aesthetic pleasures and pleasant friendships…. naturalists are wanderers and wonderers, and perhaps there is not time for that in the highly paced world in which we live…. was there no space in a fast-moving, computerized, scientific world? i felt like an endangered species. had i become the wafting cranefly, left behind on the evolutionary ladder, to be replaced by the lethally efficient assassin fly [aka robber fly]?… as research becomes narrower, so the language becomes more and more precise…. [we may depend on this specialization], and this work may hold for the specialist the same joys and challenges as that of being a generalist naturalist holds for me, but their communication with an interested public, one of the glories natural history, is limited. one of the things natural historians have done over the decades is to put into words an appreciation of the natural world and by so doing, lead others to care…. in my bones i feel there is a place for the naturalist in today’s world. whether these students become economists or diplomats, musicians or historians, they have discovered something which will give them sustenance and pleasure for the rest of their lives. and that is precisely what a college should teach: what to do with your tomorrows.’ ann zwinger, ‘a world of infinite variety’, the nature reader, 31-33

to which i add, there is growing need for competent translation by the natural historical generalist of the specialists’ lingo to the lay public, to keep them informed and engaged, lest our democracies become ignorant, superstitious, easily led by special interests, hooligans–well, undemocratic.


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