Biophilia and what it means to the survival of the human race

“Go Green,” “Recycle Reuse,” “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”  These are just a few slogans among the gamut of “save the earth” pleas strategically splattered everywhere we look.  A trend of the last few decades, people of all ages are jumping on the go green bandwagon in hopes that its polluted wheels lead them to greener grass.

The real issue is; how many people wear environmentalism on their sleeves in public, but change shirts when no one is watching?  It’s similar to attending an AA meeting then going home and getting hammered.  Being Earth conscious in public is on one page, while living Earth conscious is a whole different book, or website if you will.

No one can truly understand what it means to save the earth until they have experienced just what it is they desire to save.  Nature.  Am I correct?  Is the goal not necessarily to “Save the Earth” but rather to conserve the nature which surrounds us?  “Nature,” what does this mean to “going green?” To most, enjoying the outdoors is walking your dog on a graciously paved sidewalk and bitching about the uneven cracks.  Or going for a jog in your shorts that look like panties with your ipod on so loud you couldn’t hear a train whistle.  Maybe you even go out and throw some frisbees at chains in the freshly mowed park while cars whizz by just beyond the Arbor day trees the elementary school planted .  You get my point, the majority, not all of you, but the majority of American citizens so egotistically perched upon their ambling wagon of “conservation” really have no clue what it is they are doing there.

Why is it that we so adamantly wish to save our natural world?  What is it that drives us to stare up at the clouds, or the stars?  What is that feeling of awe we get when we gaze at Ansel Adams’ photos?  What drives us to dream of waterfront property with a gorgeous view?  Why does your mom get so pissed when you trample her flowers in the front yard?

Ansel Adams, the Grand Tetons

The answer is a simple concept, which has only been accepted as theory.  That theory, is Biophilia. E.O. Wilson, the man who has diligently researched and defended the theory of biophilia, defines the word as “…the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms” (Wilson 1984).

Let’s think about this for a second.  Innately? We’re programmed, instinctively, to affiliate ourselves emotionally with the natural world around us?  I mean, it only makes about as much sense as 2+2=4.  It’s clearly an evident fact.  Why else do we like waterfront views? Why else do we think flowers are pretty? Why else do we love seeing a deer in our backyards?  Why else do so many people flock to see Yellowstone, or Yosemite?  Because our human instinct is to associate with nature, to love nature, to be in nature.

For thousands and thousands and thousands of years, the human population lived completely immersed in nature.  Living on the edge of water was a necessity for survival.  Not only did it provide hydrating sustenance, but also it narrowed enemies attacks to one direction.  Water was a symbol of safety.

Winters were long and harsh.  Many people didn’t make it through the winter cold, but for those who did, flowers were the symbol that winter was over.  A tiny plant, that so beautifully sprouts the sign of life and signals your survival of yet another winter.

Deer, elk, moose, etc. were always signs of food.  Our ancestors worshipped and respected them as suppliers of food, and life.

White-Tailed Deer Fawn

Beautiful vistas were shared among all human populations.  They were part of our habitat and part of our lives which we so diligently carried out until about a thousand years ago.

Then humans began to mechanize and to populate large villages instead of small bands of hunter/gatherers.  Soon our population spread and in the last few hundred years our planet’s landscape has changed dramatically.  With such a rapid change of lifestyle, evolutionarily speaking, there wasn’t anywhere near enough time to lose our relationship with the nature that has defined our lives for so many thousands of years.

What's more attractive to you, this picture of a city? Or the picture of the Tetons before this or the Beach at the end? If you choose the city, is it because of the gorgeous orange sunset in the background, or because you truly like the buildings more?

So even today, we have yet to evolve away from our INNATE affinity for biotic life.  The problem is, no one is venturing out to experience their genetic response to nature.  No one is willing to accept that biophilia is a real thing and that as we continue to destroy the natural world, our brain is going to start to depress, to feel emotion towards our loss of nature.

I’m not asking you to hop on the bandwagon.  I’m asking you to get off the damn bandwagon, it’s only going in circles.  The only way to convince yourself that our earth is worth saving is to get off the road, out of your Toyota, and walk into the forest.  Climb to the top of a mountain.  Go to where the beaches aren’t littered with condo’s, condoms, and condiments.  When you do, focus on the whole feeling you get inside.  Feel the happiness that surges in you when you immerse yourself in nature.  I can’t convince you with my low traffic blog the importance of recognizing biophilia.  But I know that once you experience biophilia, you’ll realize that nature is worth preserving.  Not just for your sake, but for the sake of all of those generations that have come before us, and for those who will inevitably come after us.  For the sake of our species.

Richard Lee and Irven DeVore once prosaically stated that “…interplanetary archaeologists of the future will classify our planet as one in which a very long and stable period of small-scale hunting and gathering was followed by an apparently instantaneous efflorescence of technology and society leading rapidly to extinction.”  Are we not already on our way?

Secluded Beach


Wilson, E.O. Biophilia. 1984 Pg. 1