"Biophilia" is a term coined by biologist EO Wilson, re humans having innate tendency to focus on living rathe than inanimate things.
A Conversation With E.O. Wilson includes some of his thoughts on the subject. Includes:
I doubt that most people with short-term thinking love the natural world enough to save it. But more and more are beginning to get a different perspective, particularly in industrialized countries. It's becoming part of the culture to think rationally about saving the natural world. Both because it's the right thing to do—and notice the quick spread of this attitude through the evangelical community—but we will save the natural world in order to save ourselves.
There's now a lot of concern, even consternation, among not just naturalists and poets and outdoors professionals but spreading through I think a better part of the educated public, that we've cut ourselves off from something vital to full human psychological and emotional development. I think that the author of Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv, hit on something, because it became such a popular theme to talk about that book [which posits that children today suffer from what Louv calls "nature-deficit disorder"] that people woke up and said, "Yeah, something's wrong."
I've never seen a test made of it, but I'd be willing to place a bet that among full-blown outdoorsmen, the birders and the fishermen, people who get out into the outdoors early and really love it, I bet there are fewer depressed people. That's an interesting proposition to check out.
Biophilia seems a good thing to me; something that permeates my life. Yet I occasionally see and hear of people, especially kids, who have something more akin to biophobia - fear of the natural world, even fear of harmless creatures such as butterflies and individual small ants; kids who are wary of simply sitting on the grass. Noted in Hong Kong, where I live, yet I've also read of biophobia elsewhere, as if modern life can cut people off from the natural world.
If children’s natural attraction to nature is not given opportunities to be flourish during their early years, biophobia, an aversion to nature may develop. Biophobia ranges from discomfort in natural places to contempt for whatever is not man-made, managed or air-conditioned. Biophobia is also manifest in regarding nature as nothing more than a disposable resource.
John Burroughs cautioned that, “Knowledge without love will not stick. But if love comes first, knowledge is sure to follow.” The problem with most environmental education programs is that they try to impart knowledge and responsibility before children have been allowed to develop a loving relationship with the natural world. Children’s emotional and affective values of nature develop earlier than their abstract, logical and rational perspectives. We need to allow children to develop their biophilia, their love for the Earth, before we ask them to academically learn about it and become guardians of it.
Regular positive interactions within nature allow children to feel comfortable in it, develop empathy with it and grow to love it. No one can love what he or she doesn’t know through intimate association.
Research is substantiating that an empathy with and love of nature, along with positive environmental behaviors and attitudes, grow out of children’s regular contact with and play in the natural world. Recent research strongly suggests that the opportunity for children younger than age 11 to explore in wild, natural environments is especially important for developing their biophilic tendencies and that the type of play should be child-nature play, such as catching frogs in a creek or fireflies at night, versus only child-child play such as playing war games with walnuts.
Children need to be given daily access to outdoor natural environments for extended periods of time.
Schools, early childhood educators and teachers need to free themselves from the paradigm of giving children indoor play and learning and manufactured outdoor playgrounds and instead allow children to reclaim the magic that is their birthright—the ability to play and learn outdoors through exploration, discovery and the power of their imaginations in intimate contact with nature. It is only through such positive experiences in outdoor nature that children will develop their love of nature and a desire to protect it for their future and late generations.
There's related quote from David Orr, on Treehugger website:
'Nature and I are two,' Woody Allen once said, and apparently the two have not gotten together yet. Allen is known to take extraordinary precaution to limit bodily and mental contact with rural floral and fauna. He does not go into natural lakes, for example, 'because there are living things there.' The nature Allen does find comfortable is that of New York City, a modest enough standard for wildness.
Allen's aversion to nature, what can be called biophobia, is increasingly common among people raised with television, Walkman radios attached to their heads, and video games and living amidst shopping malls, freeways, and dense urban or suburban settings where nature is permitted tastefully, as decoration. More than ever we dwell in and among our own creations and are increasingly uncomfortable with nature lying beyond our direct control.
Biophobia ranges from discomfort in 'natural' places to active scorn for whatever isn't manmade, managed, or air-conditioned. Biophobia, in short, is the culturally acquired urge to affiliate with technology, human artifacts, and solely with human interests regarding the natural world.