Adjunct Professor, School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Say you want to convince your father-in-law to get involved in conservation—in rescuing biodiversity. How would you start? Would you tell him about the genes for disease resistance in wild relatives of crops plants? Would you mention the probable existence of undiscovered, valuable pharmaceuticals, talk of tropical rain forests and their rates of conversion, or describe a personal experience of nature that still brings tears to your eyes or goose bumps to your skin? That is, would you appeal to his intelligence or to his emotions? The chapters in this section may help to inform us about this choice.
There are many ways of seeing the biosphere. Each of us is a unique lens, a lens ground and coated by nature and nurture. And our responses to nature—to the world—are as diverse as our personalities, though each of us, at different times, may be awed, horrified, dazzled, or just amused by nature.
Most such experiences are quite ordinary, everyday encounters with suburban birds, street trees, garden pests, or domesticated plants and animals. But some of these experiences leave vivid memories and can change our behavior. These so-called peak experiences can fuse our separate selves to nature, establishing a lifetime bond.
Ordinary or sublime, such encounters constitute just one of several dimensions of our total involvement with the natural world. It is the fundamental dimension, though, because experience provides the raw material out of which the more conceptual dimensions are formulated.
What are these ordinary dimensions? Previous sections in this volume deal with some of them, including the value dimension, which is dominated by the polarity