Are We Wired to Be Outside?

Grigori Guitchounts in Nautilus:

The evolutionary explanation for human connection to nature is a colossal safari through the African savanna, where our ancestors fought, fed, and frolicked for millions of years. The biologist E.O. Wilson speculated on this story in Biophilia, a slim volume on human attraction to nature. Wilson defined biophilia as an “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.” He argued that if other animals are adapted to their environments and are best-suited to the environments in which they evolved—for example, a thick white coat serves the polar bear well in its native cold and snowy Arctic—then is it possible that humans too, despite our ability to live anywhere on this planet, are best adapted to the particular environment in which we evolved?

“The more habitats I have explored, the more I have felt that certain common features subliminally attract and hold my attention,” Wilson wrote. “Is it unreasonable to suppose that the human mind is primed to respond most strongly to some narrowly defined qualities that had the greatest impact on survival in the past?” Those qualities include the savanna’s sprawling grasslands, sparse trees, cliffs and other vantage points, as well as bodies of water, which provided resources. Wilson cited human tendencies to build savanna-like environments where they are not found naturally, as in malls or gardens; open-concept architecture seems to have hit on our love of vast spaces, too.

More here.