Biophilia – Integrating Nature into our Lives

Does planting out your footpath seem trivial compared to the work of committed environmental and bushcare groups?

It depends how you look at it.

There is no doubt we need people to group together for both lobbying and practical work on specific issues – saving wetlands, protecting koala habitat, fighting against mining, and so on.

But that’s a bit like fighting spotfires – necessary but not enough to meet the challenges of urban sprawl wiping out swathes of habitat, widespread pollution, and climate catastrophe.

These groups also allow everyone else to carry on as usual while these greenie conservationists look after things. Looking after the environment is something worthy (or sometimes extreme!) that is done by other people, elsewhere.

The separation of here from elsewhere allows the localised practice of fighting against in-fill development in urban areas without considering the knock-on effects of urban spawl and increased commuter traffic and demand for more road infrastructure.

The separation of caring for the environment from everyday life allows people to say they support causes without changing their everyday practices and car-centric lifestyles.

So what’s this got to do with verge gardens, nature strips, and biophilia?

To inspire sufficient and widespread change, we need to change the everyday attitudes and daily practices of people from all walks of life.

Biophilia is the practice of integrating nature into built environments. Singapore is a great example as it has transformed into a city within a garden. It brings nature into our homes, our commutes, our workplaces, and transforms a city.

Some biophilic projects have been implemented in Australia, and in Brisbane, but they tend to be on large, isolated, developments like office towers and hospitals.

Verge gardens approaches biophilia from a different direction. When enough residents plant out their verges, as well as creating additional connected habitat for wildlife and helping reduce the heat island effect, other factors begin to kick in.

Residents interact with these gardens every day, as part of their daily life.

Walking in their suburbs becomes more pleasant so walking to the bus stop is an attractive alternative to getting in the car.

Increased activity means they meet other walkers, and the gardeners tending their gardens. It builds community.

Daily interaction with nature brings physical and mental health benefits.

Attitudes begin to change – which changes individual lifestyle choices and broader political planning decisions.

So, get out there and replace that grass, try to inspire your neighbours to do the same, and start some conversations.

But also let your local councillors know that you want your city to move towards biophilia, and adapt their planning decisions and requirements accordingly.