Naturalists — Who Are They?
The modern understanding of a naturalist needs to be broader, and ultimately should include anyone who is in love with nature.
A naturalist is a person who loves nature. Someone who thinks highly of nature and everything that it includes. There is no clear definition for it out there. One reason for this is that it isn’t used that frequently. The other reason is that whoever calls themselves naturalists don’t themselves have a definition for it. You can ask them why they’d call themselves one and the answers can differ dramatically from one person to another.
No-fault of theirs of course. Everyone we’ve been talking to regards being a naturalist as something sacred. To an extent that they’ll try to talk you into being one yourself. And by the time you’re done talking to them, you genuinely feel that you’re part of that community too. Some part of you, from that discussion onwards, will be a naturalist, no matter what you might be doing in your life.
Now, in doing so everyone takes their expertise and experience into consideration to define naturalist. It could be that you are a molecular biologist and working on brain cell chemistry is your thing. In essence, you are also a naturalist. Or, it could be that you are a field ranger who loves to take people for safaris. Of course partly because you love it too much yourselves. You’re a naturalist too. Or, it could be that you’re a climate change activist and in doing so you’ve traveled the world to spread the word of caution. You are a naturalist.
You could be a gardener, or a landscape architect, or a rock climber, or a genetic engineer; the one thing that brings you together is your love for nature.
You. Are. Naturalist.
And, the fact of the matter is that you can convince anybody that they’re a naturalist too. The easiest way to do that is by talking about the one thing they care about and co-relating it with nature. Most of us have an innate affinity to nature.
So, how do we define naturalists then? Well, we don’t have to in the strictest sense of the word. Oxford dictionary defines ‘Naturalist’ as ‘a person who studies animals, plants, birds, and other living things.’ Dictionary.com defines it as ‘an adherent of naturalism in literature or art.’ Do a Google search and you would be presented with this definition — ‘an expert in or student of natural history’ and ‘a person who practices naturalism in art or literature.’
The lines truly blur when it comes to defining naturalist. And that’s partly because the definition of any word is fluid and changes over time with usage. It’s never constant. And partly it is so because being a naturalist is a personal thing. Everyone who is a naturalist tends to define it for themselves and tries to include what they do as a part of the definition.
Maybe the first step we can take to understand what naturalist means is by taking a look at what ‘Naturalism’ means. The best definition out there says that it’s ‘a style of art or writing that shows people, things, and experiences as they really are’. It also includes ‘the theory that everything in the world and life is based on natural causes and laws, and not on spiritual or supernatural ones.’
Well, if naturalism is everything we think to be real and something that obeys natural laws, which is virtually everything we can perceive; then naturalist is practically anyone of us.
Looking at the definition of naturalists from this angle helps, and maybe, this is what our collective future needs going forward.
There Can Be A Better Definition
If we’d have to pin down a concrete definition for Naturalists is might as well be this:
A person, living or dead, who has and is a proponent of the thought that nature is the beginning and the end. Someone who feels inherently that everyone is a part of nature, including our fellow beings. And in doing so, includes nature as a part of the self.
A naturalist is a person who’ll take care of nature and will make sure that every act, big or small, involves the thought of preserving and co-existence with it.
In effect, this is every one of us. You and me. Your neighbor, your friends, your family, your fellow citizens, and your fellow beings.
Defining naturalism in any narrow a definition than this can look limiting. Portraying someone as not being a naturalist is like saying that they are supernatural or that they don’t follow nature’s law.
It’s like saying that they are not a part of nature.
You can have any affiliation, any nationality, any religion, or any social status; in essence, We are Naturalists.
The greatest of changes and advancements that we see today in any field is, in part, due to naturalists. There are innumerable examples. The global acceleration of clean energy projects. The advancement in biotechnology and genetic engineering. The overwhelming awareness and support for the growing climate crisis. And many more are all because of naturalists in one form or another. Not to mention the adoption of nature and its elements in technology.
The many advancements of the past by naturalists and the countless contributions underway right now are collectively creating our future.
It Is Time
We’re currently at a juncture in human history where there is a need to take action and come together. For Nature. Our future depends on it.
The actions we take today, the communities we form, and the relationships we foster, as naturalists, will define the kind of world we leave behind for future generations.
Nature in its greater glory and grace has always provided. Of course, there is a long way to go and there is a lot that needs to be done before we reach a better place.
But, the very first step of all, even before starting our quest to revive nature, we need to start identifying ourselves as naturalists. This is the least we can do. Everything else can come later. Realizing that we are a part of this nature is the first step.
Any conflict we face when we talk about global warming, or the clean water crisis, or the mass extinction of species is because we define ourselves differently and in doing so have left some of the people out. We cannot keep on doing this anymore. We need everyone to be on the same side. We need every one of us to put together an effort for this to happen.
Whether you believe in the climate crisis or not you’re still a naturalist. Whether you plant trees or not, you’re a naturalist. It doesn’t matter if you are a vegan or not, or if you advocate green energy or not.
If you have a love for nature, you are Naturalist. ‘We’ are ‘Naturalists’.