Classroom Resources: The (Un)Natural Order of Things

Article by Carol Kaesuk Yoon

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Discussion Questions

1.    On page 26 the author states “whatever language we speak, we have nearly lost the language of life.”  What does she mean by “the language of life,” and how does this relate to conservation?

2.    How does umwelt, as the term is used by animal behaviorists, inform human perceptions of corporate logos in the “landscape of merchandise?”

3.    In the author’s view, what is the relationship between “the world we live in, our simple reality,…the world of purchasable items,” and the sixth mass extinction?  Do you think this is a reasonable connection?

4.    Find a book on the ethnobotany of an indigenous culture that lives in a place you care about.  Does their system of plant taxonomy differ significantly from that of modern Western botanists?  If so, what sorts of characteristics and field marks are used in classification?

5.    Describe the cladists’ approach to determining evolutionary relatedness.  How can this lead to a counterintuitive taxonomy?

Websites for Further Information

•    Tree of Life Web Project:
•    The Official Online Registry for Zoological Nomenclature:
•    Conservation Psychology:

Key Concepts

•    Taxonomy
•    Phylogeny
•    Systematics
•    Cladistics
•    Environmental perception
•    Umwelt

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