“Nature is Powerfully Relaxing”


According to biophilism (is that a word, too?), there’s an innate
human attraction to nature.  Ya think?  And I sure as hell agree with
this statement by a proponent:  "Part of our emotional, intellectual
physical well-being depends on having access to nature." I know that’s
true because I get awfully edgy when
I haven’t been in nature for a while – like more than 12 hours.  Seriously.  It’s an addiction and there’s no 12 Step
program for it, so I’ve taken up gardening.

As an introduction to biophilic design, I have to say the article
made it look pretty silly at first, what with $20,000 "living walls" in
homes stuffed with ficus, hibiscus and orchids, which are claimed to
remove "up to" 90 percent of the formaldyhide and other toxic
substances from indoor air in lab tests.  First you have to kill all
the insects.  Then after destroying the life in this bizarre indoor
garden you could, I suppose, admire the fresh crop of mold growing in
your home.  Not my idea of connecting with nature. And all this because
“Typically speaking, the air quality in homes is much worse than in
commercial buildings."  Is that true and if so, why?  Then comes a
scientist to say that “plants are just not effective at
getting rid of stuff in the air," and "it’s best to keep plants
outdoors." Fine by me – my houseplant choices are so uninspired, they
can aptly be called plant material.

And we’re told that people benefit not just from contact with nature itself but also with simulated
nature, like lighting that mimics outdoor lighting.  So if I lived in
a highrise somewhere where I couldn’t be IN nature, I guess I’d settle
for pretending.  But until I’m hauled away in a straitjacket or a body
bag, you’ll find me in the garden. 


  1. “Biophilia” sounds like horticultural therapy on steroids for people with a whole lot of money to spend or for people who are figuring out how to have rich people spend a whole lot of money on what they have to offer.

    Horticultural therapy (www.ahta.org) by the way, has been around for quite some time because it is well-documented that access to nature and natural light is good for you.

    I guess people forgot that and they have to use new words like “biophilic” to make it sound trendy to bring some of the outdoors in, or pretend to, and otherwise reconnect with nature.

    I know it isn’t possible for everyone to live where they can step outside into a garden, and so I guess pretend nature is the next best thing.

  2. In the late C19th the Edinburgh based philosopher/town planner Patrick Geddes had an organisation which was basically in charge of a regeneration project in the slums of Edinburgh’s Old Town (The very picturesque medieval bit between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace). I remember reading in one of their annual reports that they were planning to distribute window boxes, soil and seeds to the children at the local schools to give them a connnection to growing things. I don’t remember seeing a follow up report about how successful it was – so it probably wasn’t – I had visions of all the window boxes falling off the very rickety sills. There was also no mention of what seeds were distributed.

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