Guest // David George Haskell, PhD
Host // Louise Kuo Habakus
forest unseen jacketThe #1 ranked high school in the country is requiring this book, The Forest Unseen, as summer reading for all incoming freshmen. I picked it up and was hooked. The premise is simple — what can we learn by closely observing the same square meter of forest over a one year period?
It’s no surprise that the forest can teach us biology. But does it also hold lessons about social connections, social responsibility, and our essential humanity?
Imagine a contemporary biologist who writes like a poet — giddy with delight about the surprises and secrets that Nature will disclose to anyone who cares to take a closer look.
We know that our kids need to spend more time outdoors. For this to happen, maybe parents need a dose of inspiration, too. This isn’t a quick read; you won’t (and shouldn’t) knock it off your list in a weekend. I’m reading it with my boys, individually. Each is drawn to different ideas — the brutal parasitism of the horsetail worm… stripping naked in -20F weather to experience winter as the chickadees do — but it feeds curiosity and spurs some terrific conversations.
If you’re headed to the lake or mountains — or wish you were — this is the perfect summer read. The chapters are short and the insights are unexpected. It’s no wonder that this book was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize and received numerous awards, including the National Academies’ Best Book Award for 2013, the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award, and the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature. A profile in The New York Times said that Haskell “gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist.”
david haskellDavid George Haskell, PhD holds degrees from the University of Oxford and Cornell University. He is Professor of Biology at the University of the South, where he served as Chair of Biology. His scientific research on animal ecology, evolution, and conservation has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the World Wildlife Fund, among others. David serves on the boards and advisory committees of local and regional land conservation groups. His classes have received national attention for the innovative ways they combine science, contemplation, and action in the community. David was born in England, raised in Paris, educated at Oxford and Cornell, and now lives in Tennessee where he helps his wife run a CSA called Cudzoo Farm.