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
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.
Join our mailing list:
You'll receive our twice-yearly, free magazine,
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
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.”
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
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 nontarget.org 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.
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.
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
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.
A Thought-Provoking Publication
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,