By Erika Iouriev
Are humans innately in touch with nature? According to psychologist Erich Fromm, “biophilia is the passionate love of life and of all that is alive.” Fromm suspected that humans are naturally drawn to nature and living things. Though the concept of biophilia is as old as Aristotle, it wasn’t popularized until the mid-1980’s by biologist Edward O. Wilson who used it to support the conservation ethic. Wilson theorized that biophilia may be a genetic trait that helped the human species survive.
Whether or not you believe that humans’ attraction to nature is an evolved characteristic that aided our species’ survival, the odds are high that you’ve experienced biophilia. That’s because it is behind a variety of experiences such as our connection to animals, the enjoyment we get from being outdoors, and the calming effect of birdsong, to name a few.
It makes sense that we crave these interactions — scientific research has illustrated the positive effects of natural environments and living things on our mental and physical health, creativity and even childhood development. Some interesting findings mentioned in Florence Williams’ book “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” include:
- Forest therapy in Japan has shown improved immune function.
- Outward Bound wilderness excursions resulted in a 50 percent increase in creativity.
- Aromatherapy’s ability to lower stress and make people more generous.
- Greener environments in inner cities have lower crime
- Patients with windows facing natural settings had shorter hospital
The wonderful part about these benefits is that they come from a variety of experiences that we can easily add to our lives. These can be small adjustments, like adding indoor plants or aromatherapy to our homes, or bigger changes such as taking week-long, unplugged trips into wild environments. (There is even a Nature Pyramid that prescribes a healthy dose of nature.) As a society, we can incorporate biophilic design into our architecture, build more urban parks, and push for outdoor activities in our schools. We need to feed our biophilia.
Embracing our innate affinity for nature not only benefits us as individuals but also as a group. We are drawn together through our collective experiences with nature, creating communities and connections despite differences in backgrounds. Nurturing biophilia leads us to an appreciation of all living things and the abiotic environments that support them. It helps us assign value to the natural environment and see the world as interconnected with humanity as part of life; stewards not conquerors.
At Mt. Cuba, we encourage nature as part of a healthy life. You will see the benefit and perhaps be inspired to conserve and protect it.