The Forest and the Sea. Marston Bates.

The Forest and the Sea

Marston Bates. Time, Inc.: 1964.

Bates’ catch-phrase for his book is “the economy of nature and the ecology of Man.” A biologist whose specialty is mosquitoes, Bates has written a refreshingly accessible, philosophical survey of biology. His humble confusion as to certain basic principles is most illuminating (i.e., where does one draw the line between organism and environment?)

The book follows a linear progression of comparing forest to sea, to studying organisms in their environment, their relation to the environment and other organisms, and finally to humans – our environment and culture. Bates wrote at a time when a certain awareness of the damage humans do to their environment was just coming to light in popular culture.

An ardent evolutionist, he sees human culture as natural, yet also as un-natural. His honest attempts to reconcile this difference end with the idea (not his own, he admits) that man must extend ethics and morality beyond our dealings with each other: we must be ethical and moral towards our environment.