Kingdom and Ecology

Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Sweden

The Three Kingdoms of Nature

Each of the crowns in the Swedish coat of arms may symbolize a component of Linnaeus' favorite--Nature.

And if you could see it with Linnaeus' eyes, you'll probably find it entirely ecological.

"Nowhere abroad have I found any region richer than our land in marvels in the kingdom of nature; not one, that can boast of so many, so astounding masterpieces of nature…” (Carl Linnaeus, The Necessity of Expeditions Through Our Native Land, 1741; cited in Enchanted Land, p. 5).

These ideas should be understood in the context of the Eighteenth Century, when most Swedes knew very little about their country. Today, Linnaeus is considered a pioneer in the exploration of Scandinavia having also encouraged many of his students to explore all corners of the world.

Coming from a family of farmers and provincial priests, Linnaeus had a humble background. But this prevented in no way the Swedish monarch (Adolf Fredrik) from appreciating his contribution as a scientist. While social mobility was not uncommon in Sweden in those times, Linnaeus was himself rised to nobility in 1761. Calr Linnaeus became then Carl von Linné.

Interestingly, Linnaeus' coat of arms presents a central egg (a clear symbol of Creation) surrounded by three crowns. The crowns recall the three ones in the Swedish coat of arms. The crowns are exhibited in differently colored fields, which suggest the Three Kingdoms of Nature.

In Linnaeus' coat, the flower on top of the helmet is the Linnaea borealis, a specimen he discovered and named during his exploration of Lappland in 1732. That five-month exploration covered not only Northern Sweden, but Norway and Finland as well.

Undeniably, Linnaeus was not very good in drawing, but he had clear ideas about what he wanted. Here's his proposal on a coat of arms for his family, showing a central motif known as the "anatomic egg," the three fields symbolizing the Kingdoms of Nature, and the Linnaea borealis on top of everything.

But Linnaeus' proposal was rejected and later reformulated. As I've read elsewhere, "Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was a brilliant Swedish naturalist and educator who considered all of nature his classroom. Like a botanical prophet, he would lead students on long excursions through woods and countryside, reeling off colorful anecdotes and observations on plants, insects and vertebrates. He eventually collected over 14,000 sheets of pressed plants and thousands of insect specimens. [...] Centuries after his death, Linnaeus is most honored for his revolutionary plant and animal naming system of binary Latin nomenclature: one name indicating the genus and the other the species."

Picture credits. Mineral Kingdom: “Sunset, Ramvikslandet, Bohuslän, 27 February 1997,” by Jan-Peter Lahall (Enchanted Land: Pictures from Nature in Sweden, Örebro: Jan-Peter Lahall, 1999, p. 18). Vegetable Kingdom: “Aesculus pavia,” by Edvard Koinberg (Gunnar Broberg, Carl Linnaeus, Stockholm: The Swedish Institute, 2006, p. 21). Animal Kingdom: A Tengmalm´s Owl Chick (“Owls, Hälsingland,” detail), by Håkan Vargas S. (Copyright Håkan Vargas S. / Swedish Travel & Tourism Council).

by Shalakha Sanalkumar
Mahatma Gandhi International School, Manila

I agree with Linnaeus’ maxim stating that "All excess is harmful". Indiscriminate felling of trees results not only in the destruction of the natural habitats of animals and other living things but also disturbs the climate resulting in freak weather which may cause natural disasters like typhoons, tornadoes and tsunamis. Excessive industrialization has resulted in global warming which threatens the future of our planet. There is diversity in nature and certain areas are blessed with abundant trees, rainfall and other flora and fauna while certain areas have a different climate. I agree that “Nature always compensates for a disadvantage by an advantage elsewhere”. When Carl Linnaeus went to Lapland, which is a very cold place, he saw reindeers which adapt to that harsh climate and also provide for the needslike food, clothing andtransportation for the people living there. In other places, such as deserts, extreme heat and scarcity of water make them uninhabitable. But the camel and the cactus plant adapt to this condition and an oasis is created in the middle of the wilderness, with fresh water and plants, which is indeed a miracle of nature. This supports the maxim of Carl Linnaeus. All forms of life like plants, animals and humans have been created to share this planet and maintain its ecological balance. But human beings, in their greed and quest for modernization, have disturbed this balance. We are only to be blamed for dumping waste, chemicals, sewage into the rivers making it non drinkable and even unsafe for contact. We have changed forests (which like our lungs provide pure air to us) into farmland and expand our cities. This leads to extinction of animals, causes landslides, floods and threatens all forms of life. Life is precious and we must preserve it by maintaining its ecological harmony and balance.

Online resources
In the Spirit of Linnaeus
Linnaeus-Manila Program
What a century!
Rara avis
The Same Order
El mismo orden
Education: In the Spirit of Linnaeus


liber vigo said...

Mi amor, tus blogs son buenisimos. Hace unos dias lo vi a Eduardo Cervera y comentamos tus trabajos, muy favorablemente! Somos tus fans.

Gab Stegmann said...

Mariano, this is a very good essay. I like the emphasis in harmony and balance, key to every live-being's health.

Raghumama said...

Great article.

Vedichi said...

What I like about this article is the emphasis on balance. Development, construction and industrialization are not bad if the environment is taken care with all this. I too agree with Linnaeus’ maxim stating that “All excess is harmful”.