Biophilia: We're meant to love nature.

Photo by Sander van der Wel |

Would hanging up the pics from your latest cottage trip improve your mood?

Besides the nostalgia of remembering the great time you had with your friends or family, looking at pictures of nature has been demonstrated to put us in a more positive state of mind. 

Many of you have probably heard of Edward Wilson. He’s the one who came up with the term “biophilia,” or human’s innate “love of living things.” He gives the definition, “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” He believes that we evolved as creatures who are instinctively enmeshed within nature, and that no matter where we live in the modern world, we still maintain this constant affinity for it. Basically, the brain is wired to attract us to environments that will ensure our survival and reproductive success. So if you think you are happy in your apartment in the city, you are genetically designed to be even more happy hiking through a forest or looking out at the sea.

This hypothesis is closely related to the concept of nature deficit disorder, the idea that as more children are brought up in urban centres, behavioural problems increase. This problem is promoted through the suggestion that wild spaces are less ‘safe’ than urban areas. It seems that many children today see wild spaces as areas that have simply ‘not been developed yet.” According to proponents of this theory, this could have a very negative impact on the overall mental health and well-being of children. For those interested I would highly recommend Richard Louv’s 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, for a more in depth look at the effects of nature deficit disorder. 

Interestingly, advertisers have caught on to the theory of biophilia. They have realized that people would be happiest ‘washing their hair with herbs, driving in trucks made of rocks, and chewing gum that tastes like ice,’ as one writer put it. If you connect your product to nature, you are likely to be successful in selling your product. For example, this commercial for shampoo which takes place in a forest…I’m sure you can think of dozens of others (just think about car commercials).

I say, if corporations want to take advantage of this affinity for natural landscapes, so be it. If it allows us to see and appreciate natural landscapes and green spaces, then perhaps it is planting the seed that leads to environmental concern. The more we value our natural soap or our organically grown fruit, the more we want to recycle our pop cans and cycle to work. Biophilia could start a reaction towards a great eco-movement, one that might embed sustainable thinking into the minds of generations to come.