The enchanting bond humans share with nature is a complex interplay of inherent tendencies and nurtured inclinations, as unveiled by researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. This intrinsic affinity for nature is a profoundly personal experience that should fundamentally influence urban planning, an insight highlighted by the research team.
The potent influence of nature on human well-being is well-documented. Particularly in urban landscapes, the presence of trees and verdant spaces has been linked to enhanced mental and emotional states. Yet, the exact mechanisms driving this phenomenon, known as biophilia, have spurred debate among experts.
Some assert that humans naturally possess an instinctual fondness for nature, shaped by our evolutionary history intertwined with natural surroundings. Conversely, others propose that it’s our early life experiences that mould our perspective on nature, dismissing the notion of an inherent predisposition.
A MOSAIC OF FACTORS AT PLAY
By rigorously examining a multitude of studies encompassing both innate traits and developmental experiences, particularly during childhood, researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences have delved into this realm. Their synthesis culminates in the revelation that both genetic heritage and environmental influences synergistically shape an individual’s connection with nature. Notably, a gamut of factors further converges to fashion the expression of this affinity.
“Within our subconscious lays an inherent positive resonance with nature,” asserts Bengt Gunnarsson, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Gothenburg. “However, the biophilia hypothesis should be nuanced to reflect the intricate interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental factors in shaping individuals’ rapport with nature.”
NATURE: A KALEIDOSCOPE OF MEANINGS
This heterogeneity stems from the diverse reactions humans exhibit toward nature. A Japanese study, for instance, gauged subjects’ heart rates during forest and urban walks, revealing a surge in positive emotions during forest strolls for 65% of participants. This suggests that not everyone universally experiences a positive connection with nature. Another study in environmental psychology unveiled an unconscious inclination towards nature over urban settings, especially among those whose formative years were steeped in natural environments.
“The exploration of identical and non-identical twins also affirmed that genetics play a role in shaping one’s positive or negative rapport with the green,” Bengt continues. “Yet, it underlined the inescapable role of environment in melding attitudes toward nature.”
Moreover, the interpretation of “nature” takes on myriad facets for different individuals. While some relish groomed parks and manicured trees, others find solace in untrammelled wilderness. The researchers posit that this divergence, too, is the result of both genetic makeup and environmental influences.
CUSTOMIZING URBAN GREENERY
Amid contemporary urban planning, density has emerged as a cornerstone of sustainable cities. However, this objective occasionally clashes with the endeavour to integrate green into urban landscapes. A plethora of studies assert that urban parks and green spaces foster physical activity and alleviate stress. Furthermore, urban greenery bears multifaceted significance, as trees purify air and offer respite from scorching heat, nurturing a habitable urban climate.
“Not everyone may share equally positive sentiments towards nature, partly due to inherited traits,” concludes Bengt. “To unravel the intricate interplay between heredity and environment, future studies are imperative. Yet, we must also remember that our uniqueness shapes our preferences. As we blueprint natural spaces in cities, let’s empower people to discover their cherished green sanctuaries!”