Biophilia: Our Connection with Nature

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If you think of the colour green, are you met with a certain emotion or object of association? It can have many connotations, often symbolising good luck, health or envy. Maybe it is just subjective, or maybe it relies on context. For me personally, tranquillity and the balance of natural order are the first concepts that come to mind. The first connection to the natural world around us is made from a simple thought of a colour. This power that colour has over us, often influencing how we feel, react or perceive things, is a strange phenomenon, not really understood by us, but very much expected as a natural response. This gives a little insight into the concept of biophilia. The biophilia hypothesis states that humans are innately drawn towards nature and other forms of life, instinctively desiring to make a connection to them. The direct connection between the colour green would be the nature aspect, but it also encompasses that natural tendency to be influenced by something around us. Colour is all around us, nature encompasses those forms of colour, making them go hand in hand with how we respond to them. The bizarre concept of biophilia, a concept that is so intrinsically linked to our being but masked by a defined word that is so alien, will be explored in this post.

I have firm favourite colours, blue and purple, it is even better if they are mixed together creating a marble, opal-like effect. I would by no means class it as a trait of my character, it has negligible effect on my everyday life, yet I still personally regard it as a strangely interesting fact to know about a person. Some would argue it could give insight into an individual’s character, some would disagree. It is a personal preference in how its importance is ranked, but it is something that most people would hold strangely present around them, whether that is actively or passively. Biophilia has this same effect. Even if your garden is not overflowing with wildlife, we all still find ourselves very much in tune with the nature surrounding us, even if those effects are only subconsciously observed. The changing colours around us associated with the changing of the seasons is a constant, something we know will happen every single year, yet something that seems to take me by pleasant surprise every time. The warm red and orange tones seen in autumn, contrasting with the bright pastel colours seen in spring, a distinction that is subtle yet defined, and can affect us more than we realise. Of course, this differs around the world, with the differing distinction between seasons, but every country possesses a form of natural beauty unique to them. Footprints in the snow, sand between our toes, birds singing, water flowing, trees towering above us, all examples of moments that engage many of our senses to connect us with our surroundings. The level of personal recognition we may give to these moments may vary, but we are all connected to and by them.

I visited Berlin’s botanical garden and took these photos shown below. The gardens and greenhouses were overflowing with life, each garden offering a taste of the type of plants seen all over the globe. I felt like I was in a bubble, my own little ecosphere.  

Living forms remind us of the pace of natural life. In this technological age, often seeming social media driven, being able to appreciate a form of life that has taken time to grow is deeply satisfying. The first time I stopped and thought about this timely connection with deeper recognition, was after I purchased an indoor plant. It was a spider plant, a relatively easy plant to care for, yet if it was neglected, you could tell from its drooping and overall lack lustre. Seeing it grow over the years, sprouting baby spiders on the ends and small flowers in the summer, seeing it flourish in my care, gave me a different form of satisfaction and responsibility. It would be ludicrous to expect a little plant to blossom shortly after receiving it, we know to expect that a little care is needed to help it in its development. End results are not to be expected instantaneously, not without some time and care being devoted, this mindset seems very much needed in this age where checking social media updates every 5 minutes seem to be the normal for a large proportion of people. Next time you are outdoors and tempted to check your phone to see the next update of something likely very distant to you, look around you instead, look up, look down. Become absorbed in your surroundings, noticing all the living forms around, all harmoniously surviving and thriving. Whether you notice an ant on the ground, seemingly placed into a humongous world from its perspective, or whether you notice you are below a giant tree, where we get a little insight into how that ant may feel. Nature can make us feel very big or very small by just being.

I took this photo, shown below, and the cover photo, in a rainforest in Borneo. I was overwhelmed by its enormity; I was at the heart of this thriving ecosystem, sharing it for a moment.

Everyone is different, and everybody’s level of biophilic tendencies will be different. Whether you are housing the largest collection of cacti, or you own a trophy winning flower arrangement, or even just have some floral patterns on your wall, nature always seems to make its way into our lives in some form. Art Nouveau, a style of art popular in the 19th century, has a core deep-rooted in biophilia. It incorporates architecture and decorative arts that are flourishing with natural themes. Biophilic design is a modern concept that aims to increase connectivity to the natural environment using direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions. Imagine an office where natural light readily meets everyone inside, or where plants are placed in view. Despite very different styles, modern biophilic design and Art Nouveau are linked, as are many other forms of design. Recognising the importance of biophilia in different spaces and fields of interest, such as architecture or medicine, with the likes of prescribing time outdoors on the rise, all suggest how deep rooted this concept is to our well-being. Shinrin-Yoku, translated into English as ‘forest bathing’, comes from the Japanese therapy that means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. Despite this being quite a niche example of a biophilic practice, the overall concept of becoming aware of the beauty around us that easily goes unnoticed, has the power to become a tool for improving our appreciation of nature, in turn increasing our connection with all living beings.

Art in the style of Art Nouveau, which often incorporates biophilic themes, whether subtly or as its focus. You may notice the connection to 1960s’ psychedelic art and album covers, which were very influenced by Art Nouveau, but modified to fit those times.

We are sharing this planet will a plethora of interlinking ecosystems, all with their own life histories of differing scales, we should be excited about the possibilities of engaging with it.

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