Von Humbolt noticed connections. When others focussed on boxing things into taxonomic orders, he discovered overarching patterns, without loss of attention to detail. He understood how nature’s processes shape each other, and how humans influence these for better or worse.
In the middle of an earthquake he gets out instruments to measure. Plans to meet ships which involves weeks of travel over unfamiliar terrain. Based on word of mouth. Continues walking with bleeding feet.
Recognises the wisdom and sophistication of native people, and their astute powers of observation and skill. Deeply despises colonialism, slavery and any racial superiority as opposed to nature.
Described anthropogenic climate change >200 years ago, and what (not) to do.
Always ready to experiment and draw conclusions, advising on local nature-based farming as the true source of wealth and societal wellbeing.
Disciplined and curious. A true polymath.
Brilliant companion for compost building and turning!
If you are still looking for a Chrismas present for the soil lover in your life, this may be it. Or for those loving history, nature writing, adventure, travel, revolution, questioning, philosophy and more.
A friend tells me there is also a graphic novel based on von Humboldts drawings and journal entries.
Given the choice of listening to the audio book in English or German, my recommendation is the latter.
A few observations under way since this pile building:
- Does heat induce spore formation in some saphrotrophic fungi?
- Do drying and saturation with water induce spore formation?
- Is seed germination and plant growth supported differently by compost dominant in fungal hyphae vs. fungal spores?
All anecdotal single observations, but it’s a start.