Voices: A Sense of Insight

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Karl Hutterer


It is easy to think that modern technology has allowed us to build a bubble that insulates us from the raw forces of nature and that humans have, somehow, become independent of nature. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nature
not only surrounds us, but we are part of nature and nature is part of us. Everything we do affects the intricate functioning of natural systems, and
the response of natural systems to our actions inevitably affects us.

It has taken modern science a long time to understand how profoundly humans have affected the natural world, and scientists are still wrestling with the task of assessing the long term effects this will have on humans themselves. This is not an idealistic point. When we think about disappearance of species, the melting of glaciers, pollution in the soil, water, and air, or the loss of rain forests, we do not just worry about the loss of a romantic Eden but about the creation of a world that is increasingly less hospitable and more challenging for human life.

A visit to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and its Ty Warner Sea Center is a great opportunity to reflect about the human place in nature. Both the Mission Canyon campus and the Sea Center are unusual in that they are set in the midst of natural environments that our scientists study and our educators interpret. The Mission Canyon campus consists of lovely riparian oak woodland along Mission Creek, the Sea Center is located on a Stearns Wharf, above the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel.




Increasingly, these wonderful outdoor settings have become an educational resource for us. While our exhibits remain important, our education programs emphasize more and more learning in nature. We take school groups and
families with children outside for inquiry-based learning experiences that
are uniquely powerful in stimulating the mind and inspiring the heart.

If we want to educate a new generation that truly understands the human place
in nature, we have to ensure that our children have a firsthand, physical, and emotional experience of nature. As Baba Dioum says: “In the end, we will
preserve only what we love, we love only what we know, and we know only
what we are taught.”