Thursday, March 5, 2015

Biophilic Cities

Biophilic City
Today we were asked to reflect on our observations of how an attention to biophilic places can be part of a restorative urbanism.

For most of us this is probably a little if not a lot Greek, so I decided to explain all the terms used here before I actually reflect on my observations.

"Biophilia is a term popularized by Harvard University myrmecologist and conservationist E.O. Wilson to describe the extent to which humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life. More specifically, Wilson describes it this way: 'Biophilia…is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Innate means hereditary and hence part of ultimate human nature.' (Wilson, 1993, p.31). To Wilson biophia is really a 'complex of learning rules' developed over thousands of years of evolution and human-environment interaction."

From that definition a biophilic place, is a place where nature is more prevalent apparent or visible. Now that you know the first part of the above sentence I will focus on restorative urbanism.

Restorative - "having the ability to restore health, strength, or a feeling of well-being."
Urbanism - "the lifestyle of city dwellers."

So a definition for restorative urbanism could be as follows...

Restorative Urbanism - having the ability to restore health, strength, or a feeling of well-being to the lifestyle of city dwellers.

The foundation of what these terms mean is set and we can finally respond to the topic of the post which is: to reflect on our observations of how an attention to biophilic places can be part of a restorative urbanism.

biophilic place
How can the attention to these places be part of restorative urbanism? Simply put plant life or nature restores health and a feeling of well-being. In a moment I am going to ask you to close your eyes, but you have to read this first. What I want you to do is imagine yourself sitting in a field. The sun is shining and there is a gentle breeze. You can hear the faint rustle of leaves and birds chirping. The grass is warm and soft as you lay down and let your skin soak up the sun. Now close your eyes. (Because your eyes will be closed, imagine this for a few minutes then open them and read the rest.)
Beautiful Beach
How do you feel? I felt relaxed and calm. I felt at ease and the cares of the world even for a brief moment floated away. The same will happen on the beach, in the mountains, in warm midwestern rain storms, etc. This is an example of biophilia, so if we were to take these types of things and integrate them into our urban spaces how could those urban spaces change for you?

Just think of the DMV, and add plants, an indoor garden, and an aviary. Now how does one of the worst places on earth feel? The point of this is the disconnect we have with the real world is harming our satisfaction in our quality of life. Let us restore a higher quality of urban life by infusing it plant life or rather regrowing it. 

In closing, I wanted to add this list of concepts that help us integrate nature into everyday living:

Important Ties to Place. There are considerable place-strengthening benefits and place-commitments that derive from knowledge of local nature; from direct personal contact; enhanced knowledge, and deeper connections = greater stewardship, and willingness to take personal actions on behalf of place and home;

Connections and Connectedness. Caring for place and environment, essential for human well-being and in turn essential ingredient in caring for each other;

A Need for Wonder and Awe in Our Lives. Nature has the potential to amaze us, stimulate us, propel us forward to want to learn more and understand more fully our world; Nature adds a kind of wonder value to our lives unlike almost anything else;

Meaningful Lives Require Nature. The qualities of wonder and fascination, the ability to nurture deep personal connection and involvement, visceral engagement in something larger than and outside oneself, offer the potential for meaning in life few other things can provide;

biodiverse city
Also here are key qualities of biophilic cities:
  • Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites; biophilic cities are biodiverse cities, that value, protect and actively restore this biodiversity; biophilic cities are green and growing cities, organic and natureful;
  • In biophilic cities, residents feel a deep affinity with the unique flora, fauna and fungi found there, and with the climate, topography, and other special qualities of place and environment that serve to define the urban home; In biophilic cities citizens can easily recognize common species of trees, flowers, insects and birds (and in turn care deeply about them);
  • Biophilic cities are cities that provide abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature through strolling, hiking, bicycling, exploring; biophilic cities nudge us to spend more time amongst the trees, birds and sunlight.
  • Biophilic cities are rich multisensory environments, the where the sounds of nature (and other sensory experiences) are as appreciated as much as the visual or ocular experience; biophilic cities celebrate natural forms, shapes, and materials;
  • Biophilic cities place importance on education about nature and biodiversity, and on providing many and varied opportunities to learn about and directly experience nature; In biophilic cities there are many opportunities to join with others in learning about, enjoying, deeply connecting with, and helping to steward over nature, whether though a nature club, organized hikes, camping in city parks, or volunteering for nature restoration projects.
  • Biophilic cities invest in the social and physical infrastructure that helps to bring urbanites in closer connection and understanding of nature, whether through natural history museums, wildlife centers, school-based nature initiatives, or parks and recreation programs and projects, among many others;
  • Biophilic cities are globally responsible cities that recognize the importance of actions to limit the impact of resource use on nature and biodiversity beyond their urban borders; biophilic cities take steps to actively support the conservation global nature;

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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.