What is biophilia?
Our connection with nature links to the concept of Biophilia. It is a term first used by German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm who termed it as “the passionate love of life and all that is alive”. Biologist Edward O Wilson explores this further in Biophilia (1984), as the idea that humans have an innate need to connect with nature and this forms part of our genetic make up. As humans, we function better, physically, psychologically and emotionally, in natural spaces. For millions of years, we have lived in harmony with the natural world, in comparison with the short time we have lived in our time in urban spaces. We are hard-wired to be with nature.
Dr William Bird, a British GP who was awarded an MBE for starting the Heath and Greenspace Walk movement, believes that we don’t belong in these urban spaces; indoors and sedentary. The majority of our evolution has been spent living in and with nature, the time spent in urban spaces is by comparison, tiny. The impact on our bodies of this disengagement and disconnection with nature is a stress response – increased cortisol, blood pressure, as well as greater risk of depression and anxiety. In essence, when we are cut off from nature, we suffer. He talks of the ‘extinction of experience’, our loss of connection with nature and losing the knowledge that once was so common – the names of trees, plants, birds.