Why do you keep plants? Or pets? Why do we feel such ease when walking through a park, or in an aquarium or zoo? Why are advertisements often flooded with images of lush forests, brightly colored flowers in full bloom, or of birds in mid-flight?
The answer is biophilia, the definition being: a love of living things. Edward O. Wilson coined the term biophilia, and the hypothesis that humans have an innate, even genetic, attraction to life and lifelike processes.
Wilson believed that not only did humans feel a need to be around nature, but that it has been ingrained into our genes throughout our evolutionary path. As you can imagine, the hypothesis has been somewhat controversial, and is doomed to continue to be so, as it intertwines with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Some might also be inclined to shrug off this idea or chalk it up as the spouting of a Go Green environmentalist who recycles Kleenex and kitty litter.
However, research has shown that environmental exposure may have significant health benefits. Patients recovering from gallbladder surgery in a Pennsylvania hospital were divided into rooms with natural views, and rooms without. The patients with natural views had shorter post-operative stays and faster overall recovery than the patients whose rooms overlooked a brick wall.
Many companies and big businesses have actually embraced this idea, installing atriums in their buildings in the hopes of having happy, productive employees. Malls, libraries, airports, and high-rise office buildings have all begun to incorporate trees and lush plant life into their architecture.
When you think about it, it makes complete sense. How could nature not be a part of us, a part of our physiology? We ARE nature. We are undoubtedly a part of nature, and it is most definitely a part of us. We are just like any other animal. Put a turtle in front of your dog, and see what happens. Most likely, the dog will perk up, look at that turtle with such curiosity and intensity like you’ve never seen before. They sense life in it, and are immediately intrigued, beguiled, excited, and scared all at once. We are an animal just like that dog is, and it is only natural for us to see other living things and be thrilled, if even just a little.