all cultures and societies have manifested their attitudes, values and beliefs in
the personal imagery of literature and art, the creation of which was often influenced by
particular places. In the context of Christianity, Francis of Assisi bonded with nature by distilling
personal attitudes towards spiritual devotion from natural phenomena he encountered in the
wooded hills of Umbria, and the mountain of La Verna in the heart of the Apennines. Seven
centuries later, Charles Kingsley was influenced by boyhood memories of meres and dykes in
fenland, and the pools of Devon's rocky shores, when he attempted to reconcile his devotional
life with science.
To the likes of
Victorian thinkers, such as Charles Kingsley and John Ruskin, who were
seeking spiritual readings of nature's signs, bonding with nature meant coming to terms with
science. Ruskin wrote as a prophet of worse to come when he spoke of Alpine mountain
streams, that in his lifetime had become polluted through the impact of railway tourism. Of the
two,Kingsley is the better educational model for today. Not only did he take up the new ideas
of ecology, which he termed bio- geology, but he also conceived a practical value system for
care for the environment, which we cannot improve upon today.
was suffused with notions about nature, and his classic book, 'The Water
Babies', is a parable of notional values for children growing up in an overcrowded world.
Within the general message of 'be kind to efts', he expressed the moral of his story as a notional
expression of the ecology of aquatic ecosystems threatened by unthinking people.
- In a similar vein of creating
care-systems for nature, the 19th century witnessed a
gradual turning away from killing wild birds for pleasure. This is particularly
exemplified in the writings of local naturalists at the turn of the century, such as Arthur
Patterson of Yarmouth, who became sickened by the senseless slaughter of wildfowl
on Breydon Water.
At this time, important
scientific notions about the workings of nature were the product of local
naturalists. The natural environment of East Anglia was a stimulus for these amateurs, and a high
proportion of them, with the requisite wit or leisure, influenced national developments in the
biological sciences . The minimum necessary to make a 'start with people' is to discover a local
personage, and answer the questions about who the person was, what they did, and why their
ideas about nature should remain interesting.