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The Nature Institute

Viewing Nature, Science,

and Technology in Context

“The question is not what you look at — but how you look and whether you see.” - Thoreau

Welcome!  We hope our publications and education programs inspire you
with fresh and radical perspectives on nature, science, and technology.

What’s The Latest?

* Good summer reading: In Context #37! Pursue with us the puzzle of the zebra’s stripes, how to connect children with nature, and what it might mean to take organisms at face value. Read the newsletter.

* Expressing the Being of Animals — a talk by Craig Holdrege, with slides, on the Expressionist painter, Franz Marc. Through the artist's life, words, and breathtaking works, Craig shows the loving attention with which Marc was able to enter into, and profoundly express, the life of animals: “I have no desire to paint animals as I see them, but rather as they are, how they themselves see the world and feel their being.” You can watch our video of the talk here.

* “Educating for Sustainability” — a major new online tool for educators at all levels, from preschool through postsecondary, and everyone seeking to cultivate truly ecological ways of thinking and perceiving. It features an annotated guide to the extensive resources we offer for holistic sustainability education, organized by subject matter and level of education. It also includes links to other organizations and a bibliography of related publications by others. You can start with the main page here.

* Evolution and the Purposes of Life — this article by Stephen L. Talbott has been published in The New Atlantis. The text is fully available on that journal’s website. Does evolutionary theory really explain the origin of purposiveness in the life of organisms? Or does purposiveness, rather, show a fundamental limitation of evolutionary theory?

Visit our Calendar of Events to learn about upcoming events.

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You'll receive our twice-yearly, free magazine, In Context, and occasional brief notices about courses, events, and other publications. Just send an email to asking to be kept informed, and please include your postal address to receive In Context by mail, if you live in the U.S. International readers and others who prefer email only will receive email links to new issues of In Context.

Biology Worthy of Life


The revolution now taking shape in the world’s molecular biology labs may not yet be common public knowledge, but it is transforming scientists’ thinking about genetics and the organism as a whole. Researchers have been discovering that it makes much more sense to say that the organism is in charge of its genes, than to put it the other way around. For commentaries on our shifting understanding of organisms at the molecular level, see the continuing series of articles by Stephen L. Talbott entitled, Biology Worthy of Life. Steve’s more recent contributions to the series tackle some of the central controversies surrounding evolution. Also, Steve has established a portal page (along with an RSS feed for those familiar with such things) for introducing all his new writings. And, finally, there is a new topical index for convenient access to all the content of “Biology Worthy of Life.”

example of a soil chromatograph


Living Soils Project

Visit Living Soils home page

Soil health is bound up with the dynamics of the whole farm organism, which includes the inner perspectives of the farmers. In this new initiative, we strive to foster not only a shift in agricultural practices, but also a shift in human consciousness, out of which new ways of interacting with nature in agriculture can develop. Our goal is to help farmers cultivate dynamic ways of seeing and understanding that can be concretely applied on farms, especially in composting. We provide on-farm consultations, qualitative soil and compost testing, workshops, and educational publications.

wheat plants

Unintended Effects of Genetic Manipulation


This Nature Institute project documents over 100 cases of unintended and unpredictable effects of genetic engineering on organisms and the environment. Our website makes important scientific research about unintended effects accessible to the broader public. It provides crucial information needed for an informed debate concerning genetic engineering in agriculture and genetically modified food.

Craig’s Latest Book

Who would imagine that plants can become master teachers of a radical new way of seeing and interacting with the world? Plants are dynamic and resilient, living in intimate connection with their environment. This book presents an organic way of knowing modeled after the way plants live.

Details available in our bookstore.

Book cover of “Thinking Like a Plant”

What Does it Mean to be a Sloth?

This article by Craig Holdrege paints a vivid picture of the sloth — a remarkable animal that expresses slowness in so many of its characteristics and even slows down processes in the rain forest in which it lives. Originally published in 1998, this article, can now be read in revised form on our website. Enjoy getting to know this remarkable creature. And maybe it will even help you slow down in our hectic times! Read the article.

sloth in tree

A Book from the Nature Institute Staff

“Craig Holdrege and Steve Talbott’s analysis of genetic engineering is the smartest, most original, and most compelling I have seen anywhere, in journalism or academia.” (Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma)

“Beyond Biotechnology” book cover

Published by the University Press of Kentucky, Beyond Biotechnology: The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering is in the Press' “Culture of the Land” series, whose editorial advisors include Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, Wes Jackson, Vandana Shiva, and others. As Sheldon Krimsky (Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University) describes the book, “The authors offer a refreshing style of scientific interpretation and have brought the discussion of the issues to a new level by making excellent use of current scientific findings that disclose how genes operate in vivo and by drawing on bioethical discussions.”

Here’s where you can learn more about the book and order it.

book cover of “The Giraffe’s Long Neck”

A Thought-Provoking Publication

The Giraffe's Long Neck: From Evolutionary Fable to Whole Organism
by Craig Holdrege

A fresh look at the giraffe and evolution. To find out more about this book, click here.

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