Tag Archives: plants

TIP: Stroke an animal. Tend a plant.

Did you stroke an animal today? Tend a plant? Seek out a ray of sunlight and raise your face to its warmth?

As Autumn creeps into the Northern hemisphere, I’ve collected seven practical tips to help find your tech/nature balance. They’re going out one a day for seven days. This is the fourth. Please share!

Check out my book Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital Age: How to feel better without logging off.  Paperback and Kindle.

What’s The Point Of Artificial Plants? #technature

Fake Nature

Lately I’ve felt very tempted to buy a fake tree for my apartment but there’s a tiny voice in my head warning me off. Sacrilege, it’s saying! The thin end of the wedge! Soon you’ll find yourself replacing all your real plants with plastic and your soul will wither. But, I don’t know. I really like the idea of an indoor tree, and a real one is not only expensive but, knowing my poor nurturing skills, would almost certainly die slowly and horribly over a fairly short period of time.

Leaves – Real And Fake

At the moment, a corner of my home looks like this  (right). The plants in the foreground are real but behind them is a Walplus Wallsticker picture of a tree with falling leaves scattered across the wall.  It felt like a huge risk when I first did it but the transfer was very inexpensive and could easily be taken off if I didn’t like it. But, I do like it. And maybe there’s a good reason for that…

Nearby Nature

In Technobiophilia, I wrote about the power of ‘nearby nature’ as described by R. & S. Kaplan in their important book The Experience of Nature (1989) (hard to find, check your library).

Instances of nearby nature are small suggestions of the natural world which, although seemingly insignificant and often out of physical reach, can play a powerful role in human well-being. Even the sight of a few trees viewed through a window can provide a sense of satisfaction and people with access to nearby natural settings have been found to be healthier than those without; studies show they experience increased levels of satisfaction with their home, job and life in general. Nearby nature does not have to be beautiful or complex, and you do not even have to be physically close to it to gain the benefits. It appears to be just as potent when viewed through a closed window or seen pictorially via a photograph, painting, video, or even something as mundane as a wall calendar.

The Kaplans didn’t express any opinions about fake greenery, but it seems to me that as long as it’s done well it must surely fall into the category of nearby nature.

So This Is The Fake Tree I’ve Been Thinking About

An artificial weeping fig, made from polyethylene plastic, 170cm tall. I saw it in the store, and felt its leaves.

It’s kind of fabric-y, not cool and living, and the ‘wood’ is pretty badly done. but from a distance it’s a kind of mirage of a tree.

I think I could live with it. Any advice?

Would it bring a breath of nearby nature?

Emotional Connections

There is a little-known design discipline devoted to helping us feel closer to the natural world. It’s called biophilic design and Professor Tim Beatley is one of the best-known researchers in that area. He leads the international Biophilic Cities Network.

In a recent blog post, Tending To Our Interior Nature(s), Beatley advises choosing objects and furnishings with meaningful stories, connections, relationships with real nature. He also recommends nature-themed art, explaining the personal benefits he has gained from photographs:

Nature-themed art is now commonly found in many hospitals and offices, and can both help to elicit positive feelings and jog memories of earlier nature experiences. I have framed photos of Half Dome, in Yosemite, for instance, and Monument Valley, Utah. These forms of interior nature are beneficial in themselves and enjoyable to look at, but also embody important memories and mental connections that can be activated with the slightest gaze or pondering. While not every time I look at these photos, but quite often, they have the effect of taking me back to the time and place, and sensations and family connections that I associate with those memories.

He offers lots of interesting examples of ways in which interior decor of all kinds can enhance our relationship with nature, using natural materials like water, wood and stone., although I must admit that, like the Kaplans, he makes no mention of plastic wall transfers or polyethylene trees.

Shall I go ahead and get that tree? Still can’t decide…

Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders

Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness by Nathanael Johnson, 2016

It all started with Nathanael Johnson’s decision to teach his daughter the name of every tree they passed on their walk to daycare in San Francisco. This project turned into a quest to discover the secrets of the neighbourhood’s flora and fauna, and yielded more than names and trivia: Johnson developed a relationship with his nonhuman neighbors.

Johnson argues that learning to see the world afresh, like a child, shifts the way we think about nature: Instead of something distant and abstract, nature becomes real all at once comical, annoying, and beautiful. This shift can add tremendous value to our lives, and it might just be the first step in saving the world.

No matter where we live city, country, oceanside, or mountains there are wonders that we walk past every day. “Unseen City” widens the pinhole of our perspective by allowing us to view the world from the high-altitude eyes of a turkey vulture and the distinctly low-altitude eyes of a snail. The narrative allows us to eavesdrop on the comically frenetic life of a squirrel and peer deep into the past with a ginkgo biloba tree. Each of these organisms has something unique to tell us about our neighborhoods and, chapter by chapter, “Unseen City” takes us on a journey that is part nature lesson and part love letter to the world’s urban jungles. With the right perspective, a walk to the subway can be every bit as entrancing as a walk through a national park.” (Amazon)

Johnson writes about the thinking behind Unseen City at Grist.  He says

But by coming to know nature in the neighborhood, where it’s too close to be romanticized, we can work out a realistic relationship. Instead of longing for a romantic Eden that never existed, we could open our eyes to the truth: We’re already living in Eden, we just have to learn to see it.

The video accompanying the book unpacks this further. Watch: