A growing body of research points to the beneficial effects that exposure to the natural world has on health, reducing stress and promoting healing. Now, policymakers, employers, and healthcare providers are increasingly considering the human need for nature in how they plan and operate.
How long does it take to get a dose of nature high enough to make people say they feel healthy and have a strong sense of well-being?
Precisely 120 minutes. Continue reading
Being a daily reader of the NYTimes it’s surprising that I missed the publication of this posthumous essay by neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks, who died in 2015. This is especially notable related to biophilia, a subject that means a great deal to all of us on this site, in fact, as Dr. Sacks states, it is an essential part of the human condition.
Even for people who are deeply disabled neurologically, nature can be more powerful than any medication.
This is an excerpt from “Everything in Its Place,” a posthumous collection of writings by Dr. Sacks.
As a writer, I find gardens essential to the creative process; as a physician, I take my patients to gardens whenever possible. All of us have had the experience of wandering through a lush garden or a timeless desert, walking by a river or an ocean, or climbing a mountain and finding ourselves simultaneously calmed and reinvigorated, engaged in mind, refreshed in body and spirit. The importance of these physiological states on individual and community health is fundamental and wide-ranging. In 40 years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens.
The wonder of gardens was introduced to me very early, before the war, when my mother or Auntie Len would take me to the great botanical garden at Kew. We had common ferns in our garden, but not the gold and silver ferns, the water ferns, the filmy ferns, the tree ferns I first saw at Kew. It was at Kew that I saw the gigantic leaf of the great Amazon water lily, Victoria regia, and like many children of my era, I was sat upon one of these giant lily pads as a baby.
As a student at Oxford, I discovered with delight a very different garden — the Oxford Botanic Garden, one of the first walled gardens established in Europe. It pleased me to think that Boyle, Hooke, Willis and other Oxford figures might have walked and meditated there in the 17th century.
I try to visit botanical gardens wherever I travel, seeing them as reflections of their times and cultures, no less than living museums or libraries of plants.
For evolutionary biology, on this platform we have favored E.O. Wilson because of his biophilia ideas (about which, plenty). For ornithology, we have leaned heavily on the Lab at Cornell and its many wonderful folks. Now, a scientist at Yale combines both of those fields and takes on the topic of beauty in a challenging manner–I am looking forward to this.
Click the book image at the left to go Indie Bound, a community of independent local bookstores, or if you need more convincing, read the beautifully illustrated Challenging Mainstream Thought About Beauty’s Big Hand in Evolution by James Gorman in the Science section of the New York Times. It is as much profile as review and asks:
Are aesthetic judgments about mates invariably tied to traits we see as adaptive and worth passing on Or, does beauty just ‘happen’?
Not long ago, a physicist at Stanford posed a rhetorical question that took me by surprise.
“Why is there so much beauty?” he asked.
Beauty was not what I was thinking the world was full of when he brought it up. The physicist, Manu Prakash, was captivated by the patterns in seawater made as starfish larvae swam about. But he did put his finger on quite a puzzle: Why is there beauty? Why is there any beauty at all? Continue reading
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
― John Muir
Muir has long been a muse for many on this site, as we ponder the concept of Biophilia and the power of nature in our lives. We are motivated to work on conservation initiatives for plenty of reasons, including our belief in the link between wellbeing and a fix of nature. From bonsai, bamboo fountains and the meditative sand raking in Zen gardens, the Japanese have a long cultivated the restorative forces of natural elements, so their embrace of forest bathing is no surprise…
The tonic of the wilderness was Henry David Thoreau’s classic prescription for civilization and its discontents, offered in the 1854 essay Walden: Or, Life in the Woods. Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing. Continue reading
In 2012 we started a string of posts featuring him, but have not linked to a Franzen-related birding story in a while. Best in epic category was likely here. Last time might have been here. He would no doubt love Chan Chich Lodge. If you appreciate his passion for birds, you should take a few minutes and listen to this, featuring him during an outing near his home:
Before achieving success as a novelist, Jonathan Franzen couldn’t imagine doing something just for fun. But now, he’ll spend an entire afternoon dodging puddles of manure for the pleasure of looking at birds, “these very visible, very beautiful, very intelligent bipeds who are a lot like us.” Through the “portal” of birds, Franzen says, we can get to know the natural world. He took our producer Rhiannon Corby along on a trip to MoonGlow Dairy, near on Monterey Bay, where the birds are as plentiful as the cow pies. Watch your step!
This is 20 minutes well spent if you share our interest in the links between nature and wellbeing; one hypothesis on this topic we favor being biophilia. But science is the realm of the nonstop quest, so the author’s explanation in this interview, of her motivations and her methodology, are worth hearing.
We have a preference for supporting independent bookstores so if this book goes onto your shopping list, before you otherwise get pulled in the direction of an online superstore, Powell’s is a great option; see what they have to say about the book:
For centuries, poets and philosophers extolled the benefits of a walk in the woods: Beethoven drew inspiration from rocks and trees; Wordsworth composed while tromping over the heath; and Nikola Tesla conceived the electric motor while visiting a park. Intrigued by our storied renewal in the natural world, Florence Williams set out to uncover the science behind nature’s positive effects on the brain. Continue reading
I have walked these trails hundreds of times during the nearly two decades since I first stepped foot in Xandari’s forest reserve. Somehow I never tire of this particular stretch, which is a testament to the fundamental charisma of water, and the special charisma of water falling from a significant height. Continue reading
There is an article in the Saturday Profile section of the New York Times this weekend that catches my attention for reasons made obvious in these pages since 2011. Thousands of posts about community, collaboration and conservation, many of which have dealt with the importance of forests. But it most importantly reminded me of a conversation I had with a couple who visited Xandari Costa Rica last year. We had trekked together in the forest reserve, all the while discussing our mutual interest in the concept of biophilia, which has been covered plenty in these pages.
Among other things I recall from that strolling conversation was each of us sharing experiences from years earlier that had caused us to rethink the simple pleasure of a walk in the woods, to consider “what a walk in the woods does for us.” Of course, the simple pleasure is still there, but understanding biophilia can intensify the pleasure of a walk in the woods. And then, if we take it a step further, or deeper, it then causes us to consider the importance of forest conservation, and our prospective roles with regard to conservation.
Those conversations with guests are essential components of our work, so (shout out to Andrew and Holly included) I recommend this article for reminding me…:
…After the publication in May of Mr. Wohlleben’s book, a surprise hit titled “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World,” the German forest is back in the spotlight. Since it first topped best-seller lists last year, Mr. Wohlleben has been spending more time on the media trail and less on the forest variety, making the case for a popular reimagination of trees, which, he says, contemporary society tends to look at as “organic robots” designed to produce oxygen and wood. Continue reading
Although he may not use the term, George Monbiot believes in biophilia. His devotion to the concept of rewilding is evident in both his actions and his words, and his expressive writing about nature’s resilience and the richness of “ecological interactions” prove the point. His description of a recent trip to the Scottish highlands exemplifies both the draw of nature and his response to it:
As I came over a low ridge, I noticed a disturbance in the water below me, a few metres from the shore. I dropped into the heather and watched. A moment later, two small heads broke from the sea, then the creatures arced over and disappeared again.
After another moment, the larger one – the dog otter – scrambled out of the water with something thrashing in its mouth. He dropped it on to the rocks, gripped it again, then chewed it up. Then the bitch emerged from the sea beside him, also carrying something, that she dispatched just as quickly. They plunged in again, and I watched the trails of bubbles they made as they rummaged round the roots of the kelp that filled the shallow bay. Continue reading
Biophilia, the word, came to our attention several years ago, but the concept has been part of our personal ethos for decades. We’re particularly invigorated by the multi-faceted (pun not actually intended) way the word can be applied to so many concentrations, from the scientific, to the literary, to the artistic, to the spiritual.
The work of American artist Christopher Marley attracts on numerous levels. His new book inspires on the design front. For more images and information to pique the interest read McKenna Stayner’s piece in the New Yorker here.
About the bookChristopher Marley’s art expresses his passionate engagement with the beautiful forms of nature. Beginning with insects and moving on to aquatic life, reptiles, birds, plants, and minerals, Marley has used his skills as a designer, conservator, taxidermist, and environmentally responsible collector to make images and mosaics that produce strong, positive emotional responses in viewers. Marley has a brilliant eye for color and pattern in different natural objects, and he expertly captures the deep relationships among them. Biophilia (literally, “love of living things”) is a must-have for nature lovers, designers, artists, craftspeople, and anyone looking for visual inspiration in the arts.
Thanks to Conservation for their regular daily feature, summarizing important research findings related to the environment, and for reminding us in the story below of the great scientist E.O. Wilson, who might note that the findings below are essentially a reflection of his ideas on biophilia. Click on the banner above to go to a new resource that we have just discovered that honors the scientist, and read on for the scientific findings that demonstrate his genius observation even without referencing him:
We’ve been hearing for a while now how simply being around green space more can be beneficial. Early this year, for example, a study found that moving to areas with more trees and vegetation led to an immediate and prolonged improvement in mental health. Just looking at a tree every now and then seems to give us all a boost. Continue reading
Long after humans made living indoors commonplace we still carry the strong desire to commune with nature in one way or another. Whether through gardening or exploration, we crave being outdoors, and that often has meant bringing our meals with us.
The origin of the word “picnic” is unclear. It first appeared in an English dictionary in 1748, and it probably derived from the French pique-nique.
A 17th-century French pique-nique may have been what we now think of as a potluck. In the 18th century, its American counterpart may have been more like a salon gathering. By the 19th century, though, it had become common for Americans to hold these events outside. Continue reading
Conservationists have always referenced the benefits of biodiversity to the natural world, but many people wouldn’t associate that benefit with our own species. Humans have always had a bond and relation with the natural world, so it is logical that the change, no matter how small, in one would affect the other. According to a Discovery Magazine article, there is new compelling evidence out there showing that biodiversity is good for our health, and the lack of it in urban areas might be the cause of the rise in inflammatory and allergy problems.
The main evidence comes from a Finnish study that found that children who lived in a more biodiverse environment were less likely to have an allergic reaction to a controlled allergen substance than children who did not.
…the urban-dwelling nature of developed countries may be to blame for their increasing problem with inflammatory diseases. If so, conservation of natural spaces, including parks and other green initiatives, may be key to protecting the health of future generations. Continue reading
Eliot Porter Winter Wren, 1969 Amon Carter Museum Collection*
Sometimes it takes a scientific mind to re-calibrate the artistic eye. Eliot Porter’s parents had instilled a love of nature and science in him from an early age, and he’d been photographing birds since received his first camera at the age of 10. His training in medicine and as a chemical engineer didn’t dampen his interest, in fact he was among the first to bridge the gap between photography as a fine art and its foundations in technology and science. Continue reading
In December 2010 the Oxford English Dictionary (fondly called the OED) added 2,400 entries, including “biophilia“. But E.O. Wilson published the term (as well as it’s city kin) in 1984 in the book of the same name.
My attention was on the forest; it has been there all my life. I can work up some appreciation for the travel stories of Paul Theroux and other urbanophile authors who treat human settlements as virtually the whole world and the intervening natural habitats as troublesome barriers. But everywhere I have gone–South America, Australia, New Guinea, Asia–I have thought exactly the opposite. Jungles and grasslands are the logical destinations, and towns and farmlands the labyrinths that people have imposed between them sometime in the past. I cherish the green enclaves accidentally left behind. Continue reading