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Experiencing Wildlife through art March 27, 2014  |  By Jim McNutt

James Northcote, A Tiger’s Den, 1816. JKM Collection®, National Museum of Wildlife Art. © James Northcote.

Population estimates show that in the current decade, for the first time, more than half the world’s people live in cities. As recently as 1800, only 3% of people were urban residents.  This enormous shift reflects many changes and calls up even more issues about the state of the earth and its people.

Not least of these is the relationship of people and nature, and how our thinking has changed from time to time and place to place.  Is nature the same as wilderness?  Is wilderness something that existed at one time in a perfect, Edenic state?  Do we still regard cities as “civilized” and nature as “wild”? If that is not true, what is our best understanding of the way people should live with respect to the earth?

Take one small example and think about how each individual person grows to understand things that are supposed to be “natural.”  When was the first time you recall seeing a wild animal?  Probably prior to that experience you saw many images of that animal made by different artists—painters, photographers, sculptors, and others.  In some way did the images prepare you, or fail to prepare you, for the real thing?

As the population grows and the natural world seems to shrink, think how many people may experience wild animals only through art, and whether the art itself may prompt changes in our thinking about the preservation of the natural world.

-Jim McNutt, President & CEO

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