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Biophilia (bio = life, living things; philia = love for) describes the innate human desire to connect with other living things and the natural environment. Multiple studies have shown that the connection to nature has numerous positive impacts on physical and mental health. Yet decades of urbanization and sedentary lifestyles have disconnected people from nature; we spend most of the day sitting indoors without easy access to green space.
While planners have long been aware of the benefits from nature exposure, most U.S. cities still lack an equitable and effective integration of nature. This issue resurfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people were forced to shelter in place in their nature-deprived neighborhoods.
This edition of PAS QuickNotes emphasizes the importance of biophilia in planning and explains how planners can create biophilic cities and communities that provide equitable access to nature and green space design that offers an effective nature experience for all.
About the Author
Petra Hurtado, PhD
Petra (Stieninger) Hurtado is the Research Director at the American Planning Association, heading APA’s research programs and foresight practice. In this role, she is responsible for expanding a future-focused research agenda, advancing planning practices that assist communities in navigating change, and developing APA's foresight practice to inform APA's strategic governance. Her areas of expertise and research include urban futures and foresight, urban sustainability, smart cities, emerging technologies, nature-based solutions, and environmental psychology. In addition, Petra teaches a course on "community visioning with foresight" at the University of Maryland. Prior to joining APA, she worked as an advisor, planner, researcher, and educator in the global urban sustainability arena. She has a Ph.D. in urban planning from the Vienna University of Technology, where she teaches on urban sustainability and environmental psychology. Additionally, she has been a guest lecturer at Harvard GSD, Loyola University Chicago and the Universidad Tecnologica de Bolivar. Petra has authored and co-authored multiple books, research papers, publicly funded reports, and articles and has presented as a subject matter expert at numerous conferences around the globe.