Let’s Make San Diego A Biophilia Hub

The design of a nautilus shell has inspired numerous human structures.

The design of a nautilus shell has inspired numerous human structures.

Leaders from 40 of the best large gardens in North America came to San Diego last week for the Directors of Large Gardens Conference at the San Diego Botanical Garden in Encinitas. When I opened my San Diego Union-Tribune on Saturday, I was glad to see an article about the meeting by reporter Phil Diehl, and I especially loved the headline:  “Stressed? You may need some nature.” Right up my alley. It’s worth reading.

As many good things as the article covered, there were so many other great topics it couldn’t fit in. Many are the things we write about here in this blog: biophilia, bioinspiration, biomimicry, author Richard Louv’s concept of “nature deficit disorder,” the new Wellbeing Standards – I could go on. The article referred to a fantastic article by National Geographic called “Your Brain on Nature.” The newspaper didn’t give you a link to it, but I will right here.

The good news is that we aren’t dependent on the newspaper or the traditional media in general for information the way we used to be. People with a passion for any particular topic like me now have a way to reach out to you directly to share what we know on our own publishing platforms like this blog, e-newsletters, YouTube, and such.

In my case, it’s this concept that incorporating nature into our urban and suburban environments could solve many of our physical and mental health problems. It’s not a novel or emerging idea anymore. Look at what the Japanese are doing with Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing.” Nearly every research study confirms we are healthier and happier in every possible way by reconnecting to the natural environment.

There are so many of us in San Diego working toward these ideals. There are a lot of similarities to the early days of the biotech industry in San Diego. To turn a handful of businesses into the internationally recognized biotech hub in San Diego, it took long term planning, a supportive culture, the talent to make it happen and the investment to make it possible. Plus a lot of patience, and a little luck.

Why couldn't we make San Diego a biophilia hub, just like we are a biotechnology hub?

Why couldn’t we make San Diego a biophilia hub, just like we are a biotechnology hub?

There is no reason we can’t make San Diego a leader in the field of biophilia, the bond between people and nature. We can create the same kind of biophilia hub here.

The San Diego Zoo’s Center for Bioinspiration is working to advance the creation and development of nature-inspired products, services, and processes that benefit humanity, wildlife and habitats. It’s a perfect fit. The Zoo and Safari Park house the largest and most diverse living collection of plants and animals in the entire world.

The Center is connecting people from all walks of life to work together. As the Center writes on its website, “Our activities build bridges from nature to industry, laboratory to marketplace, and adaptation to application. We assembly and nurture innovative teams of designers, engineers, scientists, and business leaders.”

As we wrote about last month, the Fermanian Business and Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University here in San Diego, is working with Terrapin Bright Green’s “Da Vinci Index” database to measure activity in the field of Bioinspiration. The Institute recently estimated that bioinspired innovation could account for about $425 billion of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2030. This could translate to two million new jobs. Why not try to get our share of those jobs in San Diego?

More facilities in our region are incorporating nature into their buildings such as living walls and green roofs. Sharp Memorial Hospital and the new Palomar Hospital both have green roofs. Hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, and schools feature living walls. The San Diego City Council recently passed an Urban Farming Ordinance which will allow owners of undeveloped, blighted properties to use the space for community gardens.

We already have a fantastic start on this idea. We figured out a way to bring all of the leaders in the biotechnology industry together along with leaders in government, higher education, and civic organizations, and made the investments needed to make it happen. Let’s make San Diego the same type of hub for biophilia and bioinspiration as we are for biotechnology. We live in a region with a perfect climate to accommodate this mission and we have all the talent in the world to get it done.

I’m not sure I’m smart enough on my own to know what it will take, but the more I keep writing and talking about it, this idea is sure to get to the right people eventually. The possibilities are growing daily.

BONUS VIDEO: Watch a talk about “Your Brain on Nature” and biophilia from NatGeo Live scientists here.