One of the most intriguing and intellectually satisfying philosophies regarding our stewardship responsibilities comes to us from myrmecologist and world renown ecologist and writer E.O. Wilson and then social ecologist, Stephen Kellert. Biophilia literally means, affinity for life, or as Wilson puts it, the “innate tendency to focus on life and life-like processes.” Wilson did not coin the term, but he asked important questions, most notably, why do we (humans) exhibit this trait?
Kellert took Wilson’s strong inference and developed the hypothesis, quite broadly. This idea has since been incorporated most successfully into the field of landscape architecture; the idea being, if we use those aspects of nature that are attractive or nourishing or refreshing to people we can create outdoor and indoor spaces that will serve multiple benefits most importantly increasing a sense of well-being.
A landscape architect friend of mine turned me on to this publication by Terrapin Bright Green, a company dedicated to incorporating biophilic principles and other sustainable practices into their design work. As they state in this document, ” the intent of this paper is to articulate the relationships between nature, science, and the built environment so that we may experience the human benefits of biophilia in our design applications. The paper presents a framework for biophilic design that is reflective of the nature-health relationships most important in the built environment – those that are known to enhance our lives through a connection with nature.”
So, what does the reformed environmentalist care about landscape architecture and the built environment. Not much really if I am being totally honest. However, I care deeply about encouraging the church (my students, friends, Christians in my sphere of influence) to consider Creation and our role in its tending with new eyes. I believe the biophilia hypothesis provides a philosophically coherent framework for people and Christians in particular to explore stewardship in a powerful way.
Its all about design . . .