The Affiliate:

An  Ecology of Biophilic Values


by Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb


for Stephen R. Kellert





We are but planetary dreams, puzzles

of cells completed, yet unsolved,

complexes of tendencies

defined by organic associations

in Nature. Culture me not

to be engineered to desire

lifeless essentials

such that life itself no longer inspires

Earth-given, biophilia-driven values.







My affiliate first evokes in me

its pattern in my fear; I dare

not near what used to be

a threat-filled thing

innate to mammalian memory. 

To hate, to flee, to give it space,

the presence is still awesome,

yet strangely laced

with a sense of the familiar.




Within my cells it shares a time

when natural needs were met,

memory, history, chance

the savannah dance

that pressured our design,

pulling place into neural spaces

I refer to as my mind, inclined

to find within this living form

an object of projected beauty.




This different type of kin directs

my feelings of strong affection,

reflecting my need to interact

enhancing group connection. Inspired

to share the receiver of my care

with my community, my social soul

is linked by nature/culture bonds,

from which to fashion

a model for civic compassion.







I yearn to visit a similar creature

in some exquisite feature of the wild,

for a human soul is styled to face

an immensity of freedom in a place

of exploration, of restoration, where

the experiential sense of self

can return to health and balance

in the bounty of Earth's wealth,

within which each being has its role.




How does this other make sense

to me?  What does its presence mean?

Surely it must represent more

than its common form when free.

I want to make it part of me,

though we are independent lives,

so in my mind the creature thrives,

is prone to fly and crawl and deeply roam

within the symbols of this poem.



To identify this lifeform,

to classify its kind could yield

knowledge of design and function,

further, in conjunction with curiosity,

inspiration to trace the place

exactly of the thing in land or space

or time or, even more abstractly,

the evolution of its biosemiotic realm

as relative to mine.  







I remember nowalmost

the beast, the way it moved, the nature

of its shape, the caution in my catching it,

and pride when casting it aside,

but, even stranger, a sense

of diminished danger

with each successive mastery

in the distance of my ancestry,

and, more so, the desire to make it mine.




I will choose the use it offers, depending

on my needs, unless, of course, whims tend

to be expressed, the affiliation will end

in sustenance or medicine or in manipulation

of its genes; it seems I can gain 

profits by containing for entertainment

this captive, adaptive soul,

but regardless of the way it serves,

best to keep this resource whole.




Call me biocentric, ecocentric,

some will insist, but my spirit

is constricted, my conscience isn't clear,

for, with this other will-to-live,

who am I to interfere? The being

should be back in the land

where it does belong; thus, my affiliate

I must release if I want my biophilic soul

again to be at peace.




"The Affiliate: An Ecology of Biophilic Values" was inspired by the earlier works of Yale University social ecologist Stephen R. Kellert, who developed the backbone typology of a spectrum of nine innate tendencies related to E. O. Wilson's concept of biophilia. The poem is divided into an introductory stanza followed by three sections (Affective, Cognitive, and Evaluative) based on the associated learning levels specified in Kellert's book The Value of Life.  Each section of the poem contains three stanzas, each stanza reflective of a particular biophilic tendency (including biophobia, as per the biophilia hypothesis).  The Affective section includes stanzas to serve as evocations of the following innate responses or "values": negativistic, aesthetic, and humanistic. The Cognitive section includes the naturalistic, symbolic, and scientific. Finally, the Evaluative section consists of the dominionistic, utilitarianistic, and moralistic.  The "affiliate" can be read as any representative or prototypical aspect of nature (a creature of some kind) that comes to the respective reader's mind. 





Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb's poetry has appeared in Weber Studies, Wild Earth, The Midwest Quarterly, The Blueline Anthology (Syracuse University Press), Karamu, Poem, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Roux Magazine, Eureka Literary Magazine, So to Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, Hawai'i Pacific Review, The Chaffin Journal, Slant: A Journal of Poetry, Mid-America Poetry Review, Puerto del Sol, Rive Gauche, and many other journals, with work forthcoming in A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, Rainbow Curve, Eclipse, and The Village Rambler, among others. She works as a mentor and as co-editor of the Sustainable Ways Newsletter at Prescott College and as co-publisher of Native West Press (which publishes small, edited collections of works from authors and poets in both the arts and the sciences in an effort to enhance public awareness of natural biodiversity within the American West). Her BA degrees are in English/Linguistics and in Wildlife Studies, and she holds an interdisciplinary MA in Ecosemantics.   


Values and Vision: A Profile of Stephen R. Kellert by Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb

The Sustainable Ways Interview: Social Ecologist and Author Stephen R. Kellert Shares His Views of Sustainable Design


Copyright      2005   Entelechy: Mind & Culture.  All rights reserved