In "Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection," published this month by Island Press, Stephen Kellert, Tweedy Ordway Professor of Social Ecology at Yale's School of Forestry and Environment Science, advocates an innovative approach to building. He says a sustainable "restorative environmental design" will minimize adverse impacts on the natural environment while enhancing human health and well being, fostering positive contact between people and nature in the built environment.
Kellert asserts that interaction with nature is critically important to human well-being and development, but contemporary society has become confused about the role of the natural environment in people's physical and mental lives. He says society has tended to impoverish this connection especially in the urban built environment, and that many believe the progress of civilization depends on subjugating and converting, if not, conquering the natural world.
"As most of us well recognize, the scale and character of the modern built environment has compromised and diminished the relationship between people and the natural world," said Kellert. "I view this situation, however, as more of a design failure than an intrinsic flaw of contemporary life."
"Building for Life" examines what is known about how the natural environment affects people's physical, mental and spiritual well-being and the role of nature in childhood development. It explains the relationship between people and nature embedded in humanity's evolutionary development through the notion of "biophilia," which was pioneered by Kellert and E.O. Wilson at Harvard. A narrative epilogue uses the story-telling tradition to address many of the same issues more subjectively.