The word biophilia is useful in communication about the biological, philosophical and psychological relationships between people and Nature. Contemplation of the word’s meanings and uses may encourage people to explore their own biophilic tendencies and those of others.
Biophilia (by-oh-feel-ya) is a word first used by sociologist and philosopher Erich Fromm (in his 1964 book The Heart of Man and his 1973 The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness). It was popularized recently by the biologist Edward O. Wilson in his 1986 book Biophilia and later writings on what he calls the biophilia hypothesis, referring to the biological and evolutionary bases for the human love of life.
- Biophilia comes from the roots bio- (life) and -philia (love of); hence, “love of life.”
- Biophilia is an evolutionary, biologically based inherent human tendency and need to affiliate with non-human nature, and to rely upon our connectedness with nature for our strengths as humans in the evolutionary scheme of things.
- Biophilia refers to our human identity and sense of personal fulfillment in their dependency on the way we relate to nature.
- It includes our negative relationships with nature such as avoidance, rejection, destruction and fear of some things. (Sometimes love involves justified — or misguided — fear, defense, protection, prevention, and the skills to apply them.)
- Biophilia refers to our biologically based need of connectedness with the natural world not only for exploitation for food and shelter, but also for support of the emotional, cognitive, aesthetic, and “spiritual” aspects of human nature.
- Heightened awareness and understanding of our biophilic nature tends to engender a correspondingly heightened inclination toward an enlightened conservation ethic similar to that of luminaries such as Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold. It may also engender greater personal benefit from one’s relationship with nature, in body, mind, heart and soul.
Don’t take this for gospel. It’s just my take on it. I happily welcome anyone who can set me straight on any distortions or inaccuracies I’ve committed.
Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold
If I you put a gun to my head and demanded that I sum it up in one sentence, I might say something like this:
Biophilia is an evolutionary and biologically based (hypothetically; it is unproven) aspect of human nature causing or defining our desire for, and dependency upon a good relationship to nature as whole persons in every sense of being human, biologically, psychologically and philosophically.
Y’see? Simple, huh? Or, as Thoreau put it, “We can never have enough of nature.”
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
I have to get away from this keyboard before I get sick with biophiliatosis. But for your sake (taking readers into consideration for once), I’ll go this much farther:
Here are some links about biophilia that I recommend … it beats poring through search engine hits to find the good stuff:
- Biophilia hypothesis – a good Wikipedia article on the topic
- Erich Fromm’s use of the word biophilia, biophilous, etc. (you can also learn all about Fromm at this site, Erich Fromm Online.)
- Q&A discussion with Edward O. Wilson at a conference
- Goodreads page on Wilson’s book Biophilia
- PBS NOVA interview with Wilson
- The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson (rachelcarson.org) – the definitive Carson website, by biographer Linda Lear
- The Aldo Leopold Foundation (aldoleopold.org) – carrying on the legacy of Leopold.
WHAT SMART PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SAYING (blogging) ABOUT BIOPHILIA:
- From blog to book (ourgreengenes.wordpress.com)- As the title says, this blog post is about a book, Claim Your Wildness; And Let Nature Nurture Your Health and Well Being. A college professor, developmental and health psychologist, and professional adventure guide realizes and incorporates into his career life the assertion, “There is overwhelming evidence that the human mind is primed to be friends with nature and allowing that friendship to flourish brings all sorts of psychological and social benefits.” From his blog, Ourgreengenes; Why Connecting with Nature Enriches Our Lives.
- Biophilia or Bust (figureoneblog.wordpress.com) – mainly a personal essay, wondering deeply about the human-nature connection, written by a pro, no scribbler like me, Kelly Tyrrell, “journalist and science writer, runner-cyclist-future triathlete (outdoors junkie), wife and mom, lover of craft beer and good food, localvore, adventurer..”
- E. O. Wilson — The Future of Life (scienceobserved.wordpress.com) – A biophilia skeptic’s case respectably made (I think) by an accomplished writer in his blog, Science; Essays on Science, Scientists and Science Studies
- Biophilia by Edward Wilson (thoughts) (astripedarmchair.wordpress.com) – a brief but informative review of the book, giving you a good taste of what is in the book.
- Biophilia, the blog (biophiliablog.wordpress.com) – a blog devoted in name, word and deed to biophilia. “So that is the inspiration for this blog….to share my love of life and living organisms and living systems with my friends, family, and students. I hope to highlight for you some of the wonders and marvels of the natural world. In E.O. Wilson’s words, ‘If you study life deeply, its profundity will seize you suddenly with dizziness . . .'” by Dr. Devmo, apparently a microbiologist.
- The Nature and Health Bookshelf (hikingresearch.wordpress.com) – Book recommendations “for an enhanced understanding of the connections between nature and health,” by a professional in outdoor activity and its benefits to people, in his blog, Hiking Research; Connecting People to the Restorative Power of Nature.
- Biophilia: Environmental Education from the Ground Up (citizenwriterspdx.wordpress.com) – A registered nurse offers a scholarly foundation for a letter to the Portland school board arguing for biophilia to have a formal place in their curriculum, as a next step up from mere environmental education. From the blog, Citizen Writers; Research and Writing for Change, for which the owners declare “This writing space has been developed as a public forum for the citizen writers in writing courses taught by Zapoura Newton-Calvert at Portland Community College and Marylhurst University.”
- Conservation and Your Health (raxacollective.wordpress.com) – From the blog, Community, Collaboration & Conservation Around the World by the Raxa Collective, an organization “… to facilitate collaboration among those who participate in and communicate about entrepreneurial conservation projects. The objective is to highlight and explain unique private sector initiatives in developing economies; to provide creative personal accounts of exploring the cultural and natural environments where these initiatives operate …” and more. This blog post is a brief report on recent study results in a Finnish study on children and biodiversity, among other things reported in a Discover Magazine article.