I feel privileged to live in a rural, heavily forested county in Western New York state. It allows me to invest significant time and energy in raising my daughter oriented toward exploration and connection with the natural features of our surrounding environment. This is E. O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis at work: humans adapted for living up close and personal with natural landscapes and the organisms that inhabit them.
This is on my mind because of the below footage I dug out of our family video archive from when my daughter was about 2 1/2 years old. It’s an outing to a section of walking trails near our home we refer to as ‘The Salamander Woods,’ for reasons that will be obvious from the video. I’ve edited it into about 3 minutes of representative curiosity and confidence my daughter displays moving about within this ecosystem under my guidance.
What’s striking to me about reviewing this footage is not just the knowledge and awareness such a young child is capable of possessing (identifying salamanders by species and recalling what slugs eat) but also her deep emotional connections to the natural world (tears of genuine disappointment when we overturn a log and find nothing lurking underneath).
Also, I’m astonished that my clumsy genetics have produced such staggeringly adorable cuteness!
I first became interested in biophilia when I noticed the detrimental effects on my own feelings of well being during periods when I lived separated from natural landscapes (which I hope to write about here in the future). As the sociobiologist and evolutionist David Sloan Wilson says in this interview [he raises the subject for a few minutes beginning around 21:00], biophilia is a testable hypothesis. I’d like to see more investigative work done on this in my own discipline of communication. How do patterns of rhetoric and emotion change depending on whether communication occurs within natural landscapes or following interaction with animals, walking in the woods, etc. I think these are questions that could be studied, and could help us further understand our relationships with the natural world. I expect to return to writing about biophilia often in future posts, since it’s a hypothesis that has keenly captured my interest.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this video!