Nature and Ethics:
Leopold believes that conservation efforts are doomed to fail unless we learn to appreciate the land for more than just its economic value. He calls on us to “love, respect, and admire” the land, and he asks us to start viewing ourselves as members of the “biotic community” rather than as “conquers of the land.”
Did the Natural History Museum provide you the opportunity to experience nature in ways that Leopold recommends?
The Natural History Museum places you directly inside the habitats and cultures that make Florida special. Inserting someone into the situation leads to an appreciation that cannot be gained in any other way. When the exhibit magnifies a habitat you are the same scale as the creatures normally unseen. The museum places me in the center of a habitat and then explains every detail. The only thing better is to do as Leopold did; walking around on your farm observing a year of changes.
How did you feel, what did you sense, and what did you think as you went through the museum?
I have visited the museum many times, and every time I try to soak in as much as I can. I always feel a thirst to find a new information board that I have missed, while enjoying the texture that the exhibit dioramas' offer. Documentaries can only go so far, the museum gives you the sense of space within the environment. It allows you to think about how the living things that are literally around you. The Butterfly Rainforest takes the diorama to the next level by being alive. The butterflies are always flitting about if the sun has been out, and the sheer number of plants that are in that Rainforest makes your head spin.
How did other people react to its exhibits?
I have witnessed every reaction I think possible. I have seen the speedy runner, and I have seen the person that sits on the bench all day in one spot. There is also the person that sits on the bench and doesnt read a thing, while there is the person that reads every sign in the building. The museum doesnt exist without people in it. The natural world is art, and art requires a reaction.
How did the Natural History Museum allow visitors of the museum to connect with nature?
The Butterfly Rainforest literally lets you connect with butterflies from very interesting places. In the summer they will readily land on you. The kids really enjoy when they flit overhead. The 12-times life-size Underwater Walk-through puts you eye level with the tiny creatures that feed the estuaries.
Did your experience in the museum instill in you an ethical responsibility to nature as Leopold imagines?
I would say it has. The museum gave me a deep appreciation for the two corners of our state. I grew up in the middle of it and never felt like I appreciated the entire state. The diversity of habitats in the Northwest and the cultures i never knew existed down south. I want to protect Florida now more than ever after visiting the museum.
Nature and the Human Spirit: