Here is the key takeaway from The Urban Naturalist Project’s, “A Guide to The Creatures in Your Neighborhood.” Slow down. “Take some time doing…….” That’s it really. Nature isn’t something that “over there,” separate from us. Nature is here, right here. And don’t even think of treating this book like the rest of your books. This book is meant to get dirty, to get wet, to get used and to be handed from hand to hand. Hopefully from small hand to small hand because the ONLY way for us to even begin to address things like the climate are through the minds and actions of those among us who haven’t yet been stained by politics, fear and traditional thinking. Get this book for your favorite kid.
This book came to me via Zoë Sadokierski whom you might remember as the designer of AG23. Zoë is my hero in many ways. Intelligent, nice and talented in all the ways I am not. But she was only one of the pieces of this publishing puzzle. The Urban Field Naturalist Project is a collaboration. Maybe you will remember the ten thousand plus times I recommend you collaborate with your fellow creatives. If you missed all those chances then by all means heed this warning now. Collaborate. No excuses. The goal is to help people notice wildlife in urban environments.
This group is led by Associate Professor Thom Van Dooren (School of Philosophical and Historical Enquiry, University of Sydney and Oslo School of Environmental Humanities, University of Oslo), Professor Dieter Hochuli (School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney), Dr John Martin (Institute for Science and Learning, Taronga Conservation Society Australia) and Dr Zoë Sadokierski and Dr Andrew Burrell (School of Design, University of Technology Sydney). For the love of Thor’s Hammer these sound like cool schools. They also make me feel a bit undereducated as we love to be here in the good, old US of A.
This book is centric to Australia but who cares. The messaging is on point. Pay attention to what is around you. Also, it should be noted, the book was written on ancestral lands of the Eora, Darug and Gundungurra nations, with respect paid to Elders past and present while acknowledging their sovereignty was never ceded.
The book takes on the idea via sections like the world of the field naturalist, guides for appreciation, journaling ideas and stories from the field. Not often do you see a book design with reds and greens but here you have it. And I find myself asking “Why so much conformity in most of what I see?” Perhaps I enjoy this book because of where I live. Nature here is winning. Just keeping the mice out of the house is a full time job, one that terrifies both my wife and the mice. Coyotes on the patio, bears in the hills and elk lurking around blind corners on the roads and Jeep trails. Each morning I do yoga on the patio as bugs, birds, lizards, snakes and and the neighbor’s dog come to inspect my poses. Spiders in the house are our constant companions. And don’t even get me started on the birds.
Book as resource. Books as long-term educational tool and book as inspiration to journal. (Something I’ve done daily since 1993, but illustrating my journal by hand is terrifying.) The nature world has become a lightning rod, at least here in the United States. Bring up nature and be prepared for suspicion, politics and blunt ignorance. But this should not deter us from the basics. Naturalism. A naturalist is anyone who studies the natural world. I can’t think of anything more rewarding. So with this in mind, get it, read it.