Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World


Part nature-narrative, part scientific exploration, part environmental treatise, Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World shows us (in Kellert’s words) “how our humanity – our intellect and emotions, our mind and sensory systems, our physical and mental health, our culture and creations – evolutionarily emerged and continue to be deeply reliant on the quality of our many ties to the natural world, even in the modern age.”

In Birthright, Dr. Kellert pushes aside our traditional notion of value, explaining that the natural world isn’t a source of richness to humankind primarily for its material resources. Yes, we have gained certain material comforts and advances through our economic values-based use of nature, but we have also lost huge amounts in the process of exploiting nature. Dr. Kellert has created a diverse value system for the natural world, showing how we “profit” from nature in ways we may never before have considered. Kellert calls on studies to show how exposure to and engagement with nature feeds our bodies, minds and souls. Humans are distinctively biocultural animals – a mix of two instincts, one rooted in the natural world and the other in the inventions and culture of a human world. In order for us to be sustainable and satisfied, argues Dr. Kellert, we must successfully fuse both tendencies. And yet, in our modern lives, we tend to ignore and abuse nature more than ever – at our peril.

Unlike other books extolling nature’s virtues beyond its material riches, Birthright relies on a scientific basis for its arguments, showing that human’s need for nature is a product of biology and evolution. Ultimately a powerful call to integrate the natural world back into our human endeavors, it is a new sort of environmentalist’s book, one which persuades us to conserve nature not for nature’s sake, but for our own sake and the sake of our children. Reframing the preservationist debate in ways that people will more easily accept and sign onto, Dr. Kellert shows why conservation is critical not just to the survival of our planet and species, but also to our well-being, our sustainability and satisfaction.




North American publisher: Yale University Press

Foreign rights contact: Yale University Press, Anne Bihan (

Film rights contact: Gillian MacKenzie (


"No one has learned more about the intricate relations of the human to nature, as expressed in our architecture, our relations to animals, and the shaping of aesthetics than Stephen Kellert."--E.O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

"Kellert's heartfelt Birthright is both a moving memoir and a finely tuned analysis, and a gift to future generations and to the individuals and organizations determined to usher in a 21st century human/nature reunion. Here is a topological map of the future."--Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods

"I cried as I read Birthright....So expressively and delicately does Kellert expose the emotional bonds among nature, humanity, and the individual that it's difficult not to be moved. And that's his very point; that I am bound to nature in ways that extend to my fondest memories, deepest fears, and my life-giving hopes for tomorrow-but not only me living in rural Missouri, but so too the resident living on the 102nd floor in downtown Tokyo.  Remarkable."--Dr. Daniel J. Witter, D. J. Case & Associates

"This is a great distillation of decades of scholarship on what might be thought of as 'biophilia and beyond.' This book will be of great interest to the growing public who sense that we have become too separate from nature."--Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor, George Mason University and Biodiversity Chair, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment

"Weaving a trove of learning together with engaging story and reflection, Kellert artfully explores how the deeply engrained human aptitude for kinship with all life is an adaptive strategy we need to get us through these uncertain times... Here is a welcome tonic for toxic times, moving past polarized argument to the mindful persuasion of one who has found a sustaining connection with the natural world.  This is a must-read for anyone who cares about the world and how to enrich our connection with the forces that sustain us."--Alison Hawthorne Deming, Author, Professor, University of Arizona

"Birthright is truly magnificent in so many ways. The empirical and intuitive are seemlessly woven together throughout. The book made me want to do something beautiful in the world!"--Gretel van Wieren, Professor of Religious Studies, Michigan State University

"Birthright eloquently, clearly, and persuasively makes the case for the fundamental importance of humanity's experiences with nature throughout life. This is the first time I've seen such an effective effort to provide a personal explanation that artfully uses everyday examples."--Dr. Cheryl Charles, President and CEO, Children & Nature Network

"Professor Kellert is a prolific writer, superb teacher and a leader in his field."--Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies