The a.c.e. Nature logo is a landscape because it is important to us in many ways.
One of the most prominent images on our website — the Founder’s Landscape — is a delightfully basic representation of a terrain. It was a pencil sketch drawn by a little boy a long time ago in a dusty little mining town in South America. And it was a landscape that struck our founder Clive Walcott’s fancy one day much, much later, and set him down the path of biophilia: a profound and elemental connection to nature.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why human beings in general are so fascinated by landscapes? We’re immediately riveted by the sight of mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes. There’s something about landscapes that draws us in, quiets our minds, and brings the body to a peaceful place. And this is a universal response.
Humans from all cultures feel this pull toward a distant vista, especially one of beauty. Here, let’s explore some of the reasons why humans love landscapes.
1. Landscapes Are Rooted in Our Evolution
There are many theories surrounding why humans love landscapes. One of them proposes that our connection to landscapes is rooted in our evolution. Remember that, for most of human history, we’ve lived as hunter-gatherers. During this time, we spent a lot of time in natural environments like forests and grasslands. These environments would have provided us with everything we needed to survive: food, water, shelter, etc. So it makes sense that we would feel comfortable and safe in these environments.
Author of book The Art Instinct Dennis Dutton advanced the theory that we humans are biologically drawn to beauty — whether in art, nature, or other forms. Here’s a TED talk by illustrator Andrew Park that illuminates this.
2. Our Western Culture Romanticizes Nature
Another theory of note is that our love for landscapes is a product of our Western cultural heritage. We have a long tradition of romanticizing nature in the United States and beyond. Think of all the paintings of idyllic countryside scenes or poems about the beauty of nature. This perspective has led Westerners to see nature as something to be admired and appreciated, and to treat landscapes as a ripe source of inspiration, peace, and solace.
In some ways, this is in conflict with how many indigenous cultures and communities view the natural world. For them, nature is not something to be admired from a distance but, instead, something to be respected and honored. It’s seen as a living being, with its own spirit and intelligence. There are stories and ceremonies that help people connect with the natural world on a more personal level.
Their view of nature may be more in line with how our ancestors saw the world, when nature wasn’t a prize to be won or marked for territory. Our ancestors lived in harmony with their environment. Perhaps we should (re-)learn from these cultures and previous generations, and rediscover ways to connect with the natural world that are more respectful and honored in contemporary society. We ought to remember nature as a living being, with its own spirit and intelligence.
Whichever way we view nature, it is deeply ingrained in our culture. And this affects the way we relate to landscapes.
3. Landscapes Connect Us to the Natural World
Biophilia hypothesizes that human beings have a fundamental connection with the natural world and with other living things — and that we need this connection.
Landscapes, from a distance, can feed this basic human need. They can provide us with a sense of home, and help us feel connected to the natural world. We are, after all, part of nature. And there’s something about being in nature that just feels good. It’s like coming home.
Learn about biophilia for clues to the science behind the awe and wonder that we feel whenever we see a beautiful landscape, even if it’s just a photographic image or a representational work of art.
Some scientists believe that nowadays humans have a “nature deficit disorder” — that we are spending less and less time in nature, and that this is having negative consequences on our health. On the other hand, based on documented findings, time spent in nature can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. So it’s not surprising that we would be drawn to landscapes that give us a sense of peace and calm.
4. Landscapes Help Us Relax and Unwind
In our fast-paced way of living in modern times, it is too easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget what is truly important. Landscapes make us pause. The sight of a beautiful landscape can help us re-center ourselves and find balance; we can’t help but slow down and appreciate the simple things in life. The beauty of a sunset, the sound of a river flowing, the smell of fresh-cut grass — these are all things that can help us relax and unwind.
Many studies have now proven landscapes have benefits that can help improve our mental health. For one, landscapes can help reduce stress levels. Studies have shown that looking at nature scenes can lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Landscapes can also help boost our mood and increase our sense of well-being. Looking at beautiful landscapes can help release happy chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals can improve our mood and make us feel happier overall.
Finally, landscapes can help improve our cognitive functions. Considerable research has shown that people who live in communities with more green spaces tend to score higher on tests of cognitive function than those who live in neighborhoods with less green space. This is likely due to the fact that landscapes provide us with a sense of calm and peace, which can help improve our focus and concentration.
5. Landscapes Help Us Experience Awe
When we look at a landscape, we can’t help but feel a sense of wonder. We become in awe! We become speechless! There’s something about seeing the vastness of a mountain range, or the massive power of a raging river, that gives us perspective and makes us realize how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
Maybe it’s the way the horizon stretches out to infinity before us. Or perhaps it’s the simple peace that comes from being surrounded by natural beauty. Whatever the reason that affects you, gazing at a landscape can be an incredibly moving experience. And it is not just landscapes: any time we see something beautiful or grand on the horizon, we can’t help but feel a sense of awe. Whether it’s a majestic mountain or a delicate flower, beauty has a way of taking our breath away. In moments like these, we are reminded of the wonder of life itself.
This can be a humbling experience, and one that reminds us of the importance of taking care of our planet.
These are just a few of the reasons why humans are drawn to landscapes. Next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take some time to appreciate the beauty of nature — it just might be the thing you need to help you find balance and peace.
Explore Nature’s Glory with Us
Whatever the reason for our love for landscapes, one thing is for sure: being in nature feels good! So, when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take some time off to appreciate the landscape around you: go for a hike in the woods, sit by a river, or just take a walk around your neighborhood. In fact, why not spend this time in the company of fellow nature lovers in your community?
Why do you think humans love landscapes? We’d love to hear your thoughts via our social media channels, including our official Facebook page.