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Archive for June, 2012

In the last six posts I have been talking about the beauty buzz, the first of the “gifts” of the “precious legacy” – my label for biophilia. I said in my first posting that I consider the concept of biophilia to be one of the most important insights to come out of the 20th century.

With the concept of biophilia modern science is saying that Charles Darwin was right when he described humans as a “wild species”. Even though more than half of the human population now lives in cities and towns, nature has not relinquished its hold on us. Our bodies and brains remain those of forest and grassland dwellers. At the deepest levels of our being, the natural world continues to be our home.

But as novelist, Geraldine Brooks, said in a recent lecture, “We have left our home behind

and ventured into an alien world”.

She added, “And we don’t yet know what effects this sudden hurtle into strangeness will ultimately have on the human body, the human mind”.

I don’t think that “hurtling into strangeness” is inevitable. I am convinced that the plasticity and adaptability of our brains allows us to be citizens of both worlds – the natural and the urban. We can live in one but remain connected with the other. For most of us connecting with nature is a matter of choice. And it is a choice that is easier to make than many of us might think.

What could be simpler and more accessible than pausing regularly to admire neighbourhood gardens, for example, or setting aside time to walk or just sit in the local park?

Everyone can be a “nature person” of one kind or another. It is not the activity as such that matters. Providing it locates us where something in the natural world captures our attention and “communicates” with us, it does the job. All we have to do is to open ourselves to these processes. Little or no additional conscious effort is required. Nature easily “captures” our attention because, as seekers after novelty, we find so much of the natural world inherently interesting or “fascinating”.

Even if beauty buzz was all the precious legacy had to offer, claiming that legacy would be justified. But there are more gifts in store. Connecting with nature is like taking an elixir and according to Timothy Beatley, a leading advocate of urban greening, “few elixirs have the power and punch to heal, restore, and rejuvenate the way that nature can”.

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