People are drawn to gardens, forests, and other natural spots for recreation and for vacations. Homes near parks typically gain in value. The designers and operators of hotels, spas, and golf courses know that beautiful grounds attract customers. In the words of University of Michigan psychologist Rachel Kaplan, “Nature matters to people. Big trees and small trees, glistening water, chirping birds, budding bushes, colorful flowers—these are important ingredients in a good life.” (Kaplan, 1983, p 155)
Evidence suggests that children and adults benefit so much from contact with nature that land conservation can now be viewed as a public health strategy.
This intuition is not new. Henry David Thoreau wrote of the “tonic of wilderness.” A century ago, John Muir observed that “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” (Fox, 1981, p 116)
A theoretical basis for the notion that nature contact is good for health has been expanding. In 1984, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson introduced the concept of biophilia, “the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.” (Wilson, 1993, p 31). Wilson pointed to the millennia of human and prehuman history, all embedded in natural settings, and suggested that we still carry affinities and preferences from that past. Building on this theory, others have suggested…
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