When Masashi Soga was growing up in Japan, he loved spending time outside catching insects and collecting plants. His parents weren’t big fans of the outdoors, but he had an elementary schoolteacher who was. “They taught me how to collect butterflies, how to make a specimen of butterflies,” Soga recalls. “I enjoyed nature quite a lot.”
That early exposure helped foster Soga’s appreciation for nature, he says, and today, Soga is an ecologist at the University of Tokyo. Soga specializes in the psychological benefits of nature. He studies how people’s interactions with nature affect their attitudes toward it, and his research contributes to the growing body of scientific literature showing how spending time outside has a positive effect on people’s well-being.
Within Soga’s field, research on biophilia—which explores the consequences of humans’ affinity for the natural world—is much more extensive than studies of biophobia, the fear of nature. But in a new opinion paper, Soga and a team of researchers argue that biophobia is a growing phenomenon that seems to be increasing with urban development. They go a step further, positing that biophobia is being reinforced and proliferated through society in a vicious cycle, which can have harmful consequences for people’s well-being. Existing research already shows that people who are biophobic are less likely to support conservation efforts, meaning growing biophobia is hurting wild ecosystems as well. [Continue reading…]