Biophilia is a concept, but also a principle and a trend. It is about the satisfaction that human beings feel when they come into contact with other living beings and with nature in general.
Last update: February 11, 2021
Biophilia is the innate tendency of human beings to get closer to nature and to feel in tune with it. The first person who used this term was the philosopher and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in 1973. Later, Edward Osborne Wilson published a book called Biophilia, which was widely circulated.
From an etymological point of view, "biophilia" is a word composed of two Latin roots: bio, which means "life", and philios, which translates as "natural inclination, affection or friendship". Wilson defined it as the ability to marvel at the life around us.
An important aspect is that biophilia is rooted deep within us. When we say it is "innate", we are referring to this. We are not talking about environmentalists or green activists, but about one tendency to love the intrinsic nature in each of us.
"The man-nature exchange affects intelligence, emotions, creativity, aesthetic sense, verbal expression and curiosity."
-Edward Osborne Wilson-
Biophilia and the human mind
The biophilia theory, mainly expounded by Edward Wilson, points out that for millions of years Homo sapiens has been very closely related to nature. The human being he experienced a natural need to be in contact with other living beings and this has finally become congenital.
From this point of view, getting in touch with other living beings is as important as socializing with other human beings. That is why we experience a special feeling of balance and peace when we go to a forest, the sea or spend time with our pets.
This trend would therefore be contained in human genes. We have been coded to feel attraction, curiosity and interest in all that has life. Precisely for this reason Wilson affirms that man must not be defined only as a "social animal", but as a "social and natural animal".
Nature and well-being
In the Netherlands, a study was carried out on over 300.000 people between adults and children. The aim was to define the impact of contact with nature on daily life. The research results were published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The study indicates that people living near green areas suffer less from anxiety and depression compared to those who live in areas where concrete is the norm. These, in fact, run a lower risk of contracting at least 15 diseases, including heart problems, diabetes, muscle aches, migraines and asthma.
Another study conducted by psychologist Roger Ulrich shows that faster recovery after surgery occurs and you have less need for painkillers if patients can see a green landscape from their window. Research has also shown that observing abundant vegetation reduces heart rate, blood pressure and changes in the sympathetic nervous system.
Many large cities have continued to appropriate nature's space to build large masses of concrete, gray streets and dark buildings. In many of these cities there is barely a timid allusion to nature with small green areas and parks, not always close to where people live.
Cities define a boundary between the natural and the human world. The contact with nature has unfortunately been reduced to an experience of mere tourist consumption, at best, which is not part of everyday life. Aware of this, several cities are focusing on a new model of urban planning in which nature is once again the protagonist.
The symbol city of this new model is Singapore, where networks have been built with an uninterrupted flow between parks and green areas. Many birds, insects and other animals gradually populated these spaces.
Biophilia and new paradigms
Biophilia was present in ancestral cultures and still is today in several non-Western cultures. For most of the surviving indigenous peoples, contact with nature is indisputable. They don't need any theory to keep this love of nature alive and present.
Beyond the concept of conservationism, the best thing to do is probably to look inside ourselves. There is, perhaps very hidden, that "social and natural" animal that is not entirely at ease with the detachment that prevents him from relating to other living beings. Perhaps the time has really come to start changing this paradigm.