Biophilia

Biophilia_Autumn-Leaves

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_Heart-Of-Man_bookBiophilia (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_Anatomy-Human-Destruct_bookAfter reading about it in the works of several authors, and in its usages by Fromm and Wilson, here is my take on what biophilia means, and what the biophilia hypothesis is about:

  • 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.
  • Biophilia_book_WilsonIt 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.

Biophilia_Rachel-Carson   Biophilia_Leopold
Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold

Light BulbIf 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:

WHAT SMART PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SAYING (blogging) ABOUT BIOPHILIA:

  1. Biophilia_Claim-Wildness_bookFrom 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.
  2. 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..”
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”
  8. 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.

ANY QUESTIONS?

10 thoughts on “Biophilia

  1. Excellent post. Now I have to read all the suggested readings because you made me do it. Darn you anyway. I hate people who claim to be able to define things but how can I hate these people who have put a label on us wanderers of the forest and stream.
    Thanks for posting (even though you have just made more work for me. I now cannot rest until I find out what somebody named Leopold has to say about it.)
    Take care and prepare for winter in your northern haven.

    • Well I do aim to make my readers suffer! It lends a sadistic pleasure to blogging.

      In truth, I feel honored that it matters enough for anybody to give my scribblements a second thought as you do. Just don’t tell anybody I said that.

      Leopold’s classic book is A Sand County Almanac. You’ve no doubt heard of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

      But I think that when we read any good nature writing, fiction or non, it arouses our biophilic juices, even if we have no word for it.

      In this regard, Jack London’s little story To Build a Fire was very effective for me.

      Something similar happens just poring over maps of places to explore. I know you know that feeling.

      Yeah, before Columbus Day I’ll start my snow-thrower weekly tests, even though it only breaks when there’s a lot of new snow on the ground.

      Feed your biophilic aspect: cozy up in the recliner with a tall one and a good book about nature! LOL. (And maybe go for a walk in the park.)

      • I ordered “A Sand Country Almanac” last night and Amazon said I should get in next week “or thereabouts.”
        I bought 5 foldout topos of Bloomingdale, Tupper, Saranac Lake and thereabouts and ordered another 8 or 9 flat topos for the areas between the foldouts and the Canadian border.
        Now I will be able to fish all winter long while I look at them and the 11 photos my son gave to me. They show my boys and I fishing on the Salmon near Owl’s Head and the Chateagay between Brainardsville and the village of Chateagay.
        That is where I put my fishing buddy’s ashes (as he requested).
        You got me interested in that North Branch of the Saranac River. I hope to get there someday.
        Yes – – – you are absolutely correct – – – snow blowers only break when there is a heavy snow.
        If I remember correctly you bought a lot, then lived in a camper for some time and if I got it right you have now built a permanent place? If so, super. Campers can be a devil to keep warm.
        Take care.

  2. Hi Balsamean, thanks for introducing yourself with the trackback to our post–we’re honored to be included with the canon of writers and books about biophilia. (Tried to find the “like” button for this post and alas could not.) We’ve actually written about biophilia quite a bit, as it’s a favorite concept of ours. (Another example: http://raxacollective.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/biophilia-e-o-wilson-from-thoreau-to-theroux/) not to mention several posts about Rachel herself. So now we’ll head to your reading list too! Take care and we hope to hear from you again! Cheers.

    • A great pleasure to hear from you!

      Sorry, the Like button is disabled here. Long story. So I appreciate all the more your taking the time to post a comment.

      I added a blurb to the end of this post about your writings on biophilia and Rachel Carson. Thanks.

      Best wishes for Raxa’s work and worth around the world.

      I’ve just put your Deep Ecology articles on my reading list. Some day I’ll get around to posting on that topic, long waiting in the wings.

  3. I have not read a better account of biophilia and what it means. Your have captured the richness and power of the concept superbly.

    Thank you for the compliment of mentioning my book in your list of biophilia enthusiasts.

    Count me in as another of your appreciative blog followers.

    • After scanning the sample of Claim Your Wildness at Amazon.com (where it is on my Wish List … my book buying fund has been tapped already this month), and having just read a bit of your history, I take your compliment as a special honor. Thank you. And thank you for your work and the opportunity to enjoy it. I hope I can make your subscription to The Balsamean worthwhile (even though I only do it for my entertainment!).

  4. Thanks Balsamean. If you’re looking for more rainy day reading there are fabulous posts by our contributor Seth Inman about his honors thesis research on the history of exploration in Iceland. He’s an environmental history major at Cornell University. What can we say? We’re a family of environmental geeks! Cheers!

  5. Pingback: The Breathing Tree | The Balsamean

  6. Pingback: The Balsamean Blog – dkhometree

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