Excerpted from my new blog – read the whole page here
Nature is good for you (why technobiophilia matters)
“We are all made of starstuff”. (Carl Sagan)
We know intuitively that nature is good for us. Those wonderful sensations of wind in our hair, sun on our face, cold snowflakes on our skin all need no explanation. They remind us we’re alive. That we’re part of the planet we live on. That our DNA contains the history of the Earth and perhaps even the stars too.
We know this in our bones. But, beyond a sentimental thrill, what evidence is there to explain why we feel such a powerful connection with nature?
Biologist E.O.Wilson has a name for this very deep emotion: biophilia. It is, he says in his book of the same name Biophilia, the innate attraction to life and lifelike processes. He first experienced it deep in a forest in Suriname, when one day, all of a sudden, “in a twist my mind came free and I was aware of the hard workings of the natural world”. He believes that early humans survived by attuning themselves to their surroundings and ‘reading’ the behaviours of other creatures and landscapes around them. Then it was a matter of safety, food and survival, but even today, says Wilson, we remain deeply drawn to manifestations of life.
Architect Stephen Kellert agrees that biophilia was genetically encoded inside us when sensitivity to sensory signals was crucial to our survival. In order to stay safe, we needed to be able to read the messages conveyed by changes of light, sound, odour, wind, weather, water, vegetation, animals and landscapes.
Today, our everyday lives are less dependent upon our physical surroundings but those sensitivities remain. They may lie dormant for a while until triggered by a signal from our bygone past, such as an encounter with animals, a visit to the countryside, even just the scent of a flower on a warm day. Suddenly we once again sense a glimmer of that ancient life in the wild. Biophilia connects us to nature.