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WHAT ON EARTH IS BIOPHILIA?

WHAT ON EARTH IS BIOPHILIA?

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Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll typically hear things like a doctor, vet, marine biologist, or a fireman. Common among these popular children’s career choices is an innate connection to life, and in particular, preserving it. To children it seems, other forms of life are more important than balanced spreadsheets. You only have to watch them interact with the family pet to know they find animals infinitely more interesting than lawsuits.

Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll typically hear things like a doctor, vet, marine biologist, or a fireman. Common among these popular children’s career choices is an innate connection to life, and in particular, preserving it. To children it seems, other forms of life are more important than balanced spreadsheets. You only have to watch them interact with the family pet to know they find animals infinitely more interesting than lawsuits.

Yet somehow as we grow up, we become disconnected from nature. Rather than surrounding us everyday, nature becomes something that exists over there, think about the phrase ‘Get back to nature’ – exactly how and when did we leave it in the first place? Nature shouldn’t be asked to wait patiently for us to visit when we get a long weekend. Nature and the biodiversity it provides should be within our grasp, and in our face, every single day.

This idea is growing in popularity, and like every good movement, it’s got a hybrid name – Biophilia. Bio meaning life, and philia meaning a positive feeling or liking. It was first used by Erich Fromm to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital. Biophilia is becoming the driving force in the future direction of our cities. Around the world, cities like Seoul, Oslo and San Francisco are weaving living systems into the very fabric of their construction.

These biophilic cities do more than simply provide access to a patch of mowed grass, they provide rich, multisensory, natural experiences. As a result, their citizens are experiencing less stress and anxiety, lower crime rates, and an increase in productivity. Biophilic cities also promote a greater conscious understanding about the importance of nature to our long-term prosperity. Globally, Wellington is held as an example of such biophilic awareness. Not only does the city have over 4000 hectares of nature preserve, it boasts over 60 environmental volunteer groups, who together contributed 28,000 hours of service in a single year.

As a species, we crave interaction and connection with other living things. It’s part of our genetic make-up, and when we’re devoid of such a connection, our psychological health is jeopardised. The cities that prosper in the future will be the ones that do right by their people, their natural environment, and their economy. When you evaluate the case for introducing nature, in the form of green walls, roofs, parks and reserves, within this framework, it’s hard to find a downside. Biophilic planning is an investment in our collective future. But as with all investments, it requires the patience, confidence and foresight to be able to act today and be rewarded tomorrow.