Once again I find myself drawing on the work of ecological philosopher Mitchell Thomashow. As mentioned previously, in Bringing the Biosphere Home: Learning to Perceive Global Environmental Change, Thomashow proposes the practice of a place-based perceptual ecology, the coupling of the sensory and the scientific. In the introduction to the book he writes; “I stress perceptual ecology because learning about landscapes, habitats, and species is both a perceptual and an ecological challenge, requiring specific observational skills and practices.”Later on in the text when discussing ways of practicing place-based perceptual ecology, Thomashow explores the concept of umwelt, a term coined by Jacob von Uexkull in 1920, which refers to the “physiological perceptual environment of any biological organism” or more simply put, “the capabilities and limitations of the senses.”
Thomashow goes on to write “…what I find intriguing for perceptual ecology is the idea that humans have the capacity to expand their umwelt, so as to explore spatial and temporal scales well beyond their organismic limitations.”
Take for example how ones ability to perceive is altered by such tools as a telescope or microscope, let alone the power of GIS.
Through high speed and often up close cinematography, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg helps to alter our umwelt and reorient our perception of landscapes, habitats, plants and pollinators through a number of clips from his newest project to be released by Disneynature, “Wings of Life” shown during a recent TED Talk.
For more thoughts and reflections on the critical role that pollinators play, check out the musings of agroecologist and third generation beekeeper, Peggy Eppig at The Wild Bee Chronicles.
Thomashow, M. (2002). Bringing Home the Biosphere: Learning to Perceive Global Environmental change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.