Nature, Genetics and the Biophilia Connection: Exploring Linkages with Social Work Values and Practice

Fred H. Besthorn, Dennis Saleebey


Social work’s notion of environment and its environmental responsibilities
has always been narrowly defined. The profession has tended to either neglect
natural environmental issues or accept shallow, ecological conceptualizations of
nature as something other, quite separate from the human enterprise and/or outside
the reach of social work activity. The Biophilia Hypothesis, first articulated by
Harvard biologist E.O.Wilson in 1984, offers social work as a fundamentally different
view of the person/environment construct and argues for a primary shift in the
way the profession views its relationship with the natural world. This article traces
the conceptual development of the Biophilic theory and reviews pivotal empirical
evidence explicitly arguing for the essential Biophilic premise that humans have
acquired, through their long evolutionary history, a strong genetic predisposition for
nature and natural settings. It offers key insights and examples for incorporating
Biophilia into social work’s values and knowledge base and how it may impact the
profession’s practice strategies and techniques.


Values, genetics, practice, Biophilia Hypothesis, environment, ecological/systems, nature

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Copyright (c) 2003 Fred H. Besthorn, Dennis Saleebey


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