Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He co-founded Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor for its first seven years. His latest book is called The Inevitable, which is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. He is also founding editor of the popular Cool Tools website, which has been reviewing tools daily since 2003. Every Sunday he and the Cool Tools team mail out Recomendo, a free one-page list of 6 very brief recommendations of cool stuff.
3 words to describe Nature?
Complex. Self-correcting. Flux.
3 things Nature taught you?
First nature taught me about the importance of constantly learning. Secondly, it also taught me about doing it my own way. Life is always hacking the rules and figuring out some solution. It is eternally surprising how every creature has figured out its own crazy livelihood by hacking the "rules" of biology. Each individual species is incredibly unique, even when they are related. Thirdly, it taught me that I am part of nature. I realized that there is only one life. Not in a poetic sense, but in an actual technical sense. That literally the lives of everybody and every living thing all go back, without interruption, to the very beginning of the first cell. There is just this one life that we keep replicating. Really there is only one life.
3 most treasured Nature spots?
I really enjoy Yosemite. There is something about the scale, the depth and proportions of Yosemite that is very special for me. It is a type of wilderness that is accessible and touchable.
I have a particular relationship with the Himalayas since I have I spent a lot of time there. There is something about that giant wall of snow stretching over the horizon as far as one can see. It affects me in a way that is hard to describe. These mountains have their own gravity and I can feel it the same way that I feel the Earth’s gravity. I am pulled to the Himalayas.
I am not a scuba diver, just a snorkeler, but the underwater is for me really an out-of-this-planet experience. I will never leave Earth but watching those sponges, corals and otherworldly creatures gives me the sense of exploring worlds that are beyond my reach. The underwater is an endless Star Trek movie for me.
When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel...?
Small. I see the ocean everyday. I am nothing, it is so huge, and powerful.
When you see a forest, it makes you feel...?
Comforted. I feel really comfortable in a forest. There is something about a kind of presence of trees. Those wooden beings have some sort of elder wisdom. Except though at night. I can get spooked walking in a forest in the dark. I know it is totally irrational but I do. Maybe because the trees are watching.
When you see a volcano, it makes you feel...?
Smart. I know it is bizarre to say. There is something primevally basic about volcanos and lava. Seeing them reminds me of how far we have come from rock. Billions of years separate us. Lava and rock is everything that I am no longer.
When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel...?
Time. I feel the cycle that happens every day, and every time I look at the sun's arrival or departure, I find something new and interesting. There is a childlike spell to it.
When you hear thunder, it makes you feel...?
Very excited. Thunder doesn’t come without lightning and I think lightning is just amazing.
When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel...?
When the wind comes, my responsible mature home-owner mode kicks in. In my head, I am going through a checklist. Are the latches shut and locked? Is everything tied down? Are we secured? I am immediately thinking of safety and security.
Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?
I am not a beach person or ocean person. I am most comfortable in the forest and mountains, but when I am in the desert, I am probably closer to my true self.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?
To be honest it is probably an 8 for me personally. I am fortunate and have the privileged of living in a place that is right at the edge of a National Park. I mean literally our backyard touches it. The bobcats and mountain lions are right behind our house. We are also only less than a mile from the Pacific ocean. But we have a yard and garden and live only 9 miles from San Francisco. Wilderness is a tough place to be. I don’t think it is necessary that we live in wilderness, but it is important that it remains available. Like a bank we go to, to rejuvenate ourselves as a species. I think it is crucial that wilderness be there for humans. We need to protect it not just for its sake, but for ours. In the perspective of our human well-being, it is a 10.
Share with us a childhood nature memory?
I grew up in Northern New Jersey, and at that time, one block over from where we lived was a patch of trees that we called “The Woods”. In retrospect, it wasn’t very big, but as a kid, it was everything. We were free range kids. I mean our mom would send us out in the morning and we would ride our bicycles for miles away. I spent a whole lot of time in “The Woods”. We were doing all kind of stuff. I remember we were digging and looking for Native American arrow heads. I know now there are no Native American arrow heads out there, but we were looking for them, and then making our own bows and arrows. I also planted seeds in different patterns on the ground hoping that some day the plants would be growing in that pattern, creating some weird arrangement. People would wonder what was going on with those bizarre plants. “The Woods” was very important for me as a kid. At one point I made a nature museum. While the other kids were interested in kit models making planes and cars, I was making bird models so that I could identify them. It is hard to imagine how different my life would be had it not been for “The Woods”.