Indispensable nature

Baby visiting Butterflies Go Free.
Credit: Espacepourlavie (Martine Larose)
Baby visiting Butterflies Go Free.
  • Baby visiting Butterflies Go Free.
  • Dessin papillon
  • Children having fun outside.
Indispensable nature

That nature is essential for providing food and housing, no one has a problem understanding. But were you aware that human beings also need nature to develop their full cognitive and emotional potential, and even more?

A long story

The species Homo sapiens appeared on Earth close to 200,000 years ago. Over the centuries and the millennia, humans evolved through contact with other living species and with environments they had to adapt to in order to survive. Thus, they developed inborn reflexes for “reading” nature and quickly judging its abilities to respond to their needs. Can I find something to eat here, will it shelter me from bad weather, keep my family safe from predators?

Those reflexes we still carry within us, even though we now live in more urban environments. To this day, at the sight of a verdant landscape, the infinite sea, flowers that promise beautiful fruit, all humans, whatever country they come from, feel a positive, caring emotion.

Biophilia, a little-known concept

This is what Harvard entomologist Edward O. Wilson* applied the name “biophilia” to in 1984. The concept has been adopted and refined by a number of others since then. We now recognize that contact with nature brings a variety of benefits to humans.

From childhood, time spent outside allows us to develop intellectual curiosity, creative imagination, self-esteem and the ability to solve problems. Unstructured play carried out in natural environments, moreover, improves the ability to solve problems, social skills and more.

Proof through privation

These days, over 50 percent of the world’s population lives in cities. That figure climbs to 90 percent in urbanized countries. The loss of an intimate relationship with natural environments is the cause of a number of symptoms gathered together under the name “nature deficit disorder,” as described by Richard Louv. Anxiety, depression, attention disorders, obesity, hypertension – all these physical- and mental-health disorders have been alleviated through contact with nature.

A huge subject

Research into the beneficial effects of nature on the wellbeing of humans is in its early stages. Every year brings its share of discoveries. You’ll find some references at the end of this article. But don’t take any chances: step outside, visit Butterflies Go Free and experience the messages of nature through all your senses. For your greater good!

*The same scientist who coined the term “biodiversity”


  • KELLERT, Stephen R. & WILSON, Edward O. The Biophilia Hypothesis. Island Press, 1995, 484 pp.
  • KELLERT, Stephen R. Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World. Yale University Press, 2013, 242 pp.
  • LOUV, Richard, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Workman Publishing Company, 2008, 390 pp.

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