Naturalism Checklist


Be honest.  No wrong answers.  Rate your knowledge in the categories according to your value system- maybe basic intuition suffices or maybe you want evaluate yourself against each question in a category from 1-10 and add it up to some percentage scheme.  All anyone needs is to be asked the question.


WATER –  Can you read in a landscape concentrations of water storage above and below the soil?  Do you know purification processes for drinking/sanitary purpose?  Do you know when to avoid water and what its presence means and brings?  Do you understand the hydrological patterns for our area?  Do you understand cycles creating their stability?  Do you know how the watershed has shifted and is shifting?

SHELTER – Do you have time tested methods of nature-based shelter down?  Do you know what to use to build them?  Do you have a concept of different seasons and different appropriate technologies and how they effect lifestyle design?  Do you understand the function and possibility of structures?

FIRE – Can you identify proper elements needed to successfully make fires at any conditions, weather, seasons, forest type, elevation??  Do you understand its uses and when its a necessity? Are you competent in drawing out its functions?


THEORETICAL – Do you understand the different types of parent material, rocks, etc, around your area?  Can you identify what’s going on in with variations in layers of the soil horizon?  Do you know where to find coarse sand in a landscape? Gravel? Clay? Characteristics of mountains and subsequent forests based off these parent materials?  Can you see evidence of the past and big geological events that shaped the landscape to be the way it is? Do you understand how soil is created, and how soil microbes take advantage of this to make possible a web of life?

PRACTICAL – Do you know how change a landscape to increase or decrease water retention in it, and understand how human practices relate to this?


INDIVIDUALS – Can you identify the trees in surrounding forests? The tall shrubs? Short? Herbs? Roots? Grasses?  Sedges? Rushes? Roots? Vines? Mushrooms?  And so on.  Regarding any such plant, do you understand its propagation methods?  How to harvest and process seeds?  Use it?  Predict where in the landscape you might find what?

PLANT COMMUNITIES –  Can you identify why and where patches of plants grow the way they do?  Do you know how plants interact with each other and respond to forest stimuli?  Do you know how to engage plant families?  Do you know how to alter plant species compositions to increase forest function?  Do you know how and where to gather valuable and renewable resources?   Do you understand the difference between renewable harvesting and degenerative extracting?


Can you identify the various ID? Track? Patterns for birding, hunting in a way that increases forest health, fishing, photographing.  Do you know what to do around them, for both their and your own safety?


GENERAL – How much do you feel you know?  How much can you implement your knowledge?

PHYSICAL – Can you hike a 5000’ elevation gain without water or breaks in a half day?  Can you safely enjoy swimming in alpine lakes?  Can you walk through the woods quietly?  Can you track and manage your own snow trails? Can you hunt without a gun? Can you hike an injured mate out?  How big a river can you cross?  Do you know how many paces approximately of yours are equivalent to conventional measurements? Can you hike up steep or talus slopes?  Can you metabolize efficiently to deal with cold?

NAVIGATION – Can you take advantage of visual landscape markers, mountain drainages, contours, stars, sun angles, etc, to confidently translocate?  Can you create maps of where you are at?

COMMUNICATION – Can you smoke signal?  Can you interpret how words echo through mountains and canyons?  Can you yell really loud/ get to a spot where a yell might be effective means of communicating?  Do you have a sense for where cell signals might be in pockets?

CRAFTS – Can you use natural materials to create genuinely useful things, such as a net, spear, snowshoe, decoration, inks, brain tanning, sewing, weapons, baskets, bedding, toilet paper, etc?



FOOD/MEDICINE –  Do you supply food from nature?  How small an amount of food could you bring camping for how long?  Do you k=now when what things are in season? How long could you survive off purely foraging?  Do you take advantage of herbs?

SOCIETAL EDGE – Do you understand how your supply chains of food, water, waste, energy function in human-created societies?  Do you have a defendable, informed knowledge of where those supply chains of food and energy come from?  Do you express a harmonious understanding of this with embodied action?  Do you understand in what ways humans are and behave as animals and how not?

ART – Do you know songs, dances, stories, and such, that have an emotionally, spiritually, communally positive influence on your life?  Do you see ancientness in forests?  Does your origin story involve forest?  Does Nature inform your conception of beauty?

STEWARDSHIP – Do you volunteer for local organizations/ understand what they are about and agree with what they do?  Do you identify any sense of responsibility over nature?  Is nature a spectacle to you?  Do you understand the ways and choose or choose not to support businesses built on exploitation/regeneration?  Do you know how to poop in the woods properly?  Do you understand where municipal water comes from and how its managed? Electrical power?  Are your views represented politically?  Do you know how to walk in a forest without damage soils and understand the effects of using vehicle paths and generating loud noises in forests? Do you pick up litter or put it into or leave it in forests?  Do you understand the use and results of biocides?


ATTITUDE – Do you feel like you are a part of nature and living it out or do you neglect shouldering the implications of that burden?  Can you act confidently in nature as a keystone member of it?

EDUCATION – Regardless of what you know or don’t, how much do you care about learning?  What percentage of the books you read are about naturalism integrated topics?  Do you surround yourself with people who know more than you and ask them questions?  Do you surround yourself with children and teach them what you know?   Do you exemplify that knowledge as manifest action before them?  When you speak, does your passion and enthusiasm for nature flow out “naturally” or is nature an abstract, conceptualized, and uninspiring word to you?

BOTTOM LINE – Do you go outside enough to gain practical benefits of health and happiness, push the edge of what you know & where you go? Are you prudent enough to survive whatever expedition-into-nature-based problems your temperance gets you into? How much more and what specifically do you want and are willing to learn and benefit from?  Do you know which area of naturalism speaks out the most to you?  Do you know what the next small step you need to take is, and do you have what it takes to make it?

Jason PE Smith, April 2018, BoundaryConditions.Online