What does “Nature Literacy” really mean? Understanding biology, ecology, botany, ornithology, silvaculture; is that what Nature Literacy is? Is it something you get when you check off all the birds on your life list? Is it when you get Survival Merit Badge, or your first deer?
I’ve met folks who are more “Nature Literate” than me. When they walk through an area the birds don’t get alarmed. You can’t hear their foot steps and they aren’t even trying to be quiet. The “Nature Literate” usually know what plant to use, but they take their time. They might wander the landscape- following some intuitive sense until they find just the right place to harvest from, and choose just the right part of that individual plant. Sleeping outside is preferred, but a window open at night keeps peace with the “Nature Literates” loved ones. The landscape seems to benefit from the “Nature Literate” person. The majority of these people seem to enjoy a long and enriching life outdoors as a result.
Can you imagine if we were all “Nature Literate”? We would have communities whose health would be reflected in the health and diversity of their landscape. Self-actualization would be the norm. To know yourself and be at peace with who you are would be easy. The constant immersion and interaction with a healthy and diverse landscape would nourish your body, mind, and spirit. For countless generations, wherever we hunted and foraged, humanity would be considered, like many apex species, an indicator of the health of that landscape.
If a biome is rich enough it could support an assortment of apex species. The carrying capacity of the landscape would limit the numbers of all but one of those species. Uniquely, we have the ability to encourge, diversify, and increase the carrying capacity of the land. This ability, once removed from a mulitgenerational interdependent ecological view, expresses itself in a variety of ways. Many are marvels to behold, but they tend to be unstable, sharpening the peaks and troughs of populations within our affected area.
Health and diversity are driving natural forces. They create an interdependence among organisms and literally shape the individual life forms to better interact with each other. Birds and flowers evolve a symbiosis that insects take advantage of. The movement of mites from flower to foul encourages the evolution of predatory insects and their form and behaviors. The tapestry is at once complex and profoundly simple. Imagining the reasons the landscape expressed us is to examine human interactions with everything from the soil to the sky, and to do so in a natural setting, tracking the trends as far back as we are able. In short, “Nature Literacy” is nothing less than getting connected to the landscape until it becomes part of your identity and than making the agreement to grow from there exponentially.