I came across this quote from Oliver Sacks recently. It appeared posthumously in an opinion column in the New York Times. Sacks died in 2015.
Clearly, nature calls to something very deep in us. Biophilia, the love of nature and living things, is an essential part of the human condition. Hortophilia, the desire to interact with, manage, and tend nature, is also deeply instilled in us. The role that nature plays in health and healing becomes even more critical for people working long days in windowless offices, for those living in city neighborhoods without access to green spaces, for children in city schools, or for those in institutional settings such as nursing homes. The effects of nature’s qualities on health are not only spiritual and emotional but physical and neurological. I have no doubt that they reflect deep changes in the brain’s physiology, and perhaps even its structure.
I include the world as one of the four essential domains of ontological/existential care whenever I refer to human practices. The other three are oneself, other human beings, and the transcendent. Sacks’s statement relates this domain more closely to the brain and conflates the existential/ontological and cognitive underpinning of our species. While not explicit here, I would add that the “love of nature” would be located in acts coming from the right brain hemisphere. I think he is right to believe that our connection to nature does change the structure of the brain, just like our connections to other people do.