Skip main navigation

Biophilia: The Instinctive Love of Nature

Learn more about 'biophilia' which means the instinctive love of nature and biophilic cities.
Walkway surrounded by lush vegetation. On the left a modern dome structure and on the right several savanna tree shaped steel towers
© Ray Genet NMIT

The blue landscape represents the ideal human habitat in which we evolved and may feel most happy. According to biologist Edward Wilson, the instinctive preference for this landscape is part of a greater innate desire for contact with nature that we all have. This he calls ‘biophilia’. Wilson and others argue that in order to live happy and healthy lives we must have frequent contact with nature (Wilson, 1984, 2003). There is a lot of evidence for Wilson’s claim.

Researchers have shown that hospital patients recover quicker when they have a view from their window of trees or even when they have flowers in their room (Buss, 2019). Furthermore, contact with nature relieves mental fatigue. Outdoor activities can relieve depression. Green spaces can be used to do exercise and this improves mental fitness and memory. Contact with nature in city parks and walkways are relaxing and inspiring which are good for learning, encourage curiosity and alertness (see Wolf and Flora, 2015).

The fact that nature has many benefits for the health and well-being of humans is a strong reason for the protection of nature. That is, you can argue that conservation is necessary because it will help people live better lives. When nature has value for people say that nature has an ‘instrumental value’.

Some city planners, designers and architects are not only trying to make cities and buildings more sustainable (that is, energy efficient and less polluting), they want to create biophilic living spaces. Such spaces will bring people in contact with nature for health and well-being.

For example, people who live in biophilic cities will get enough sunlight and fresh air. They will have contact with landscapes, plants and animals. They will see natural materials and colours. The architecture will look like shapes found in nature, such as leaves, shells, and trees. In addition, their houses and apartments will feel like a refuge and each one should have a view of nature (Kellert, 2012).


Buss, D.M. (2019) Evolutionary Psychology. Routledge. New York

Dutton, D. (2010) The Art Instinct. Bloomsbury Press, New York.

Green MashUP: the rise of biophilic cities. Available at: Retrieved 29/5/2021

Kellert, S.R. (2012) Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World. Yale University Press

Wilson, E.O (1984, 2003) Biophilia. Harvard University Press.Massachusetts

Wolf, K. & Flora, K. (2015) ‘Mental Health & Function’. Available at: Retrieved 29/5/2021

© Ray Genet NMIT
This article is from the free online

EAL: English Language for Nature Conservation and Sustainability

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education