The Human Nature Dictionary is an inclusive, open-content, creative project to which all are welcome to contribute words, images, and definitions that describe how human activity and nature unintentionally intersect, interact, or merge. The Dictionary is part of my and others’ on-going effort to catalyze a reconsideration of humans’ relationship to the natural world. It proposes to create new language that shows that humans and nature are part of the same pan-natural system, and that our fates are inextricably intertwined.
The Dictionary exists in multiple forms, including as a wiki I maintain, and to which all are invited to contribute new words and definitions. The online version of the Human Nature Dictionary currently includes more than 300 new words and phrases with their definitions coined by people from all walks of life from 2016 through the present. Many of these words are illustrated with drawings, photographs, and paintings made by contributors.
The Human Nature Dictionary also exists as a physical environment centered around the Human Nature Field Desk — a portable steel desk, vintage chair, plant surface, found deer bones, plastic animals, nature and environmental dictionaries, clipboards, pens, and hand-made dictionary cover — which I have transported to many different places for word-coining sessions with people of all ages. The desk and some of these sessions are documented below.
These newly coined words emphasize that humans are part of nature, not separate. Visit the online version of the Human Nature Dictionary to learn more about the project and browse the words!
I also used the Human Nature Field Desk as part of the Shore Line Recall project during a summer 2018 artist residency on the Boston Harbor Islands. The project was the genesis of my first book, Shore Line Recall: Boston Harbor Islands.
I have also presented the Human Nature Dictionary in print form at times. The cover is made from banana peel starch plastic, which I synthesized at home, from banana peels, lemon juice, and sodium metabisulfite. The banana peel bioplastic recipe was developed by Turkish high school student, Elif Bilgin.