Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World (Hardcover)

People and Nature in the Modern World

By Stephen R. Kellert

Yale University Press, 9780300176544, 242pp.

Publication Date: November 13, 2012



Human health and well-being are inextricably linked to nature; our connection to the natural world is part of our biological inheritance. In this engaging book, a pioneer in the field of biophilia--the study of human beings' inherent affinity for nature--sets forth the first full account of nature's powerful influence on the quality of our lives. Stephen Kellert asserts that our capacities to think, feel, communicate, create, and find meaning in life all depend upon our relationship to nature. And yet our increasing disconnection and alienation from the natural world reflect how seriously we have undervalued its important role in our lives.

Weaving scientific findings together with personal experiences and perspectives, Kellert explores how our humanity in the most fundamental sense--including our physical health, and capacities for affection, aversion, intellect, control, aesthetics, exploitation, spirituality, and communication are deeply contingent on the quality of our connections to the natural world. Because of this dependency, the human species has developed over the course of its evolution an inherent need to affiliate with nature. But, like much of what it means to be human, this inborn tendency must be learned to become fully functional. In other words, it is a birthright that must be earned. He discusses how we can restore this balance to nature by means of changes in how we raise children, educate ourselves, use land and resources, develop building and community design, practice our ethics, and conduct our everyday lives. Kellert's moving book provides exactly what is needed now: a fresh understanding of how much our essential humanity relies on being a part of the natural world.

About the Author

Stephen R. Kellert is Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus and senior research scholar, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University.

Praise For Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World

“I cried as I read Birthright....So expressively and delicately does Kellert expose the emotional bonds among nature, humanity, and the individual that it’s difficult not to be moved."—Daniel J. Witter, D. J. Case & Associates
-Daniel J. Witter

"This is a great distillation of decades of scholarship on what might be thought of as “biophilia and beyond.” This book will be of great interest to the growing public who sense that we have become too separate from nature."—Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor, George Mason University and Biodiversity Chair, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment
-Thomas E. Lovejoy

Birthright eloquently, clearly, and persuasively makes the case for the fundamental importance of humanity’s experiences with nature throughout life. This is the first time I’ve seen such an effective effort to provide a personal explanation that artfully uses everyday examples.  Kellert's book will resonate with a wide variety of readers.”—Cheryl Charles, President and CEO, Children & Nature Network
-Cheryl Charles

"Birthright is truly magnificent in so many ways. The empirical and intuitive are seamlessly woven together throughout. The book made me want to do something beautiful in the world! "—Gretel Van Wieren, Michigan State University
-Gretel Van Wieren

“Stephen Kellert’s heartfelt Birthright is a moving memoir, a finely tuned analysis, and a gift to future generations and to the individuals and organizations determined to usher in a twenty-first-century human-nature reunion. Here is a topological map of that future.”—Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and chairman emeritus of the Children & Nature Network
-Richard Louv

“Stephen R. Kellert invites readers on a companionable journey into neighborhood and urban center to reveal how biophilic design can help restore our ancient, beneficial relationship with the natural world.”—Terril Shorb, Ph.D., Prescott College
-Terril Shorb

"Weaving a trove of learning together with engaging story and reflection, Kellert artfully explores how the deeply engrained human aptitude for kinship with all life is an adaptive strategy we need to get us through these uncertain times. The future depends on catalyzing 'long-tern human self-interest,' and this book shows how even the darker sides of our biophilia can serve this end. Here is a welcome tonic for toxic times, moving past polarized argument to the mindful persuasion of one who has found a sustaining connection with the natural world. This is a must-read for anyone who cares about the world and how to enrich our connection with the forces that sustain us."—Alison Hawthorne Deming, University of Arizona
-Alison Hawthorne Deming