Blog Action Day ’09: Climate Change and the Nature of Nature

Today is Blog Action Day, and the subject of this year’s Blog Action Day is Climate Change.

Hm, what do therapeutic landscapes have to do with climate change…? Well, apart from the obvious (green spaces mitigating the built environment), here are some thoughts:

Why is nature, and our interaction with it, so restorative? Erich Fromm, and then E. O. Wilson, called it “biophilia,” the attraction to life. Research by environmental psychologists has shown repeatedly that people respond especially well to plants and water. The more heavily planted the garden, the more positive the outcome for the users (in other words, people using the garden feel better when there is more, rather than less, plant material). The ideal ratio is 60% softscape (plants) to 40% hardscape (paving, etc.). The presence of water also seems to have a positive effect on people.  

Of all of the elements of nature, why especially plants and water? Here are some of my thoughts on the subject:  

We know, intuitively, that we need nature – and especially air (oxygen), plants, and water – in order to survive. And thus we experience them as beautiful, and comforting, and inspiring. Being in the presence of plants and water makes us feel good because we know that they sustain us. They don’t need us (in fact, they would be better off without us, by all accounts). But without them, we would quickly perish. Without oxygen, water, and plants, our planet would not be earth, that beautiful blue sphere that you can see all the way from the moon. Plants are living, breathing things. They not only symbolize life; they are alive. And through their living and breathing – as they breathe, taking our carbon dioxide and replenishing it with oxygen – we breathe and are sustained. And one big thing that we have in common with plants: they, too, need water in order to survive and thrive. Which is maybe why we respond so positively to water, its sound, sight, even smell and taste. Water = life.  

To most people, plants and water are beautiful because they embody life. And in a world where there is a goodly amount of ugliness, pain and suffering, beauty is a comfort because it reminds us that life is worth living. Beauty is comfort and inspiration because beauty is life.