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The Biophilia Effect

28 September 2021

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The Biophilia Effect by Adele D’Souza

For years I have been aware of the equanimity I feel whilst surrounded by nature. Irrespective of whether I am deep in the Daintree Rainforest, amongst wild or manicured gardens, or soaking up the sun on the bank of the Murray river, I feel serene. My anxieties, worries and unsolvable problems seem to diminish in the wake of natural surroundings. I feel grounded and clarity seems simpler and more attainable compared to the otherwise irrational and looming thoughts inside my mind. I feel rejuvenated. I often yearn for natural environments as a place to take refuge from the complexities of everyday life.

The profound sense of serenity that consumes me while amongst nature beckoned me to learn more about this fulfilling relationship. My findings were the least bit disappointing. It provided me with a greater incentive to care for and maximize my time on our planet, Earth.

What I found . . .

 I have surrendered to the effects of biophilia.

Erich Fromm, a social psychologist, first used the word biophilia to describe a ‘love of life and all that is alive.’ In 1984, conservationist and biologist Edward Wilson, popularized the biophilia hypothesis, contending that human beings are born with an innate affinity for life-forms and nature. The meaning of biophilia has been adapted and reinterpreted by many over the course of time. I understand it as a philosophy. Put simply, as human beings have evolved as part of nature, we, therefore, have an undeniable interconnectedness and relationship with the world around us.

Have you ever noticed the abundance of meditation or relaxation playlists that include the sounds of rainforest or soothing waterfalls? Perhaps you are drawn to the crackling fire whilst camping, or have the urge to fill / decorate your bedroom with a variety of plants, vases of dried flowers and candles? Even admiring Kingston’s own natural beauties such Braeside Park, or Australia’s Uluru and the Twelve Apostles, invoke evidence for biophilia.

Importantly, these affiliations are not all positive. Through evolution, aversion from certain natural phenomena developed through mechanisms of survival. What elicits fear whilst in nature further supports the cause of biophilia. Trypophobia, a fear of clustered small holes, is thought to have developed as this particular natural pattern is indicative of the presence of poison. I believe the essence of our relationship with nature, is akin to being able to know whether your best friend is truly content or upset, without a word being said. Our connection with nature is intrinsic to our being.

What I took away . . .

I see this inborn biophilic connection as analogous to a powerful magnetic force, imploring harmony with all that is alive and living. Sally Coulthard writes that ‘we need nature much more than nature needs us.’ As water has run through the veins of our planet since its inception, these deep affiliations between humans and our natural surroundings is equally rooted in our bones and heritage.  We are designed to spend time in nature and breathe it in daily. It is, therefore, our duty to honor natural sentience and live in unity with our irreplaceable environments.