Topophilia, Biophilia and Greening in the Red Zone

  • Richard C. StedmanEmail author
  • Micah Ingalls


This chapter presents a theoretical framework for integrating Wilson’s notion of biophilia (1984) with Tuan’s (1980) notion of topophilia (literally ‘love of place’). The natural biotic environment core to the biophilia hypothesis represents a crucial—and oft overlooked in urban areas—element of ‘place’ or neighborhood, but there are other elements—neighbors, relationships, memories, landmarks, the built environment—that are similarly emotion-laden and can serve as the basis for action that promotes community rebirth and recovery. As such, resilience in the face of both sudden disasters and slow erosion of communities requires examining these elements in tandem.

Topophilia emphasizes attachment to place and the symbolic meanings that underlie this attachment. Any place embodies a multiplicity of meanings, some nature-based and some not, although some places exhibit a wider range than others. Post-disaster reconstruction of place thus involves the re-building of attachment-affirming meanings that characterized the place pre-disaster and/or the freedom to rebuild spaces in such a way that new, desirable meanings are created and obsolete or threatening meanings jettisoned. It is crucial to remember that these meanings—including those that have biophilia and topophilia-based roots—are fundamentally social and cultural, and therefore often political, in that they vary across social groups possessing differing types and levels of power. In short, some sets of meanings will have an easier path to reconstruction than others. The implications of socioeconomic power differentials—and how they co-vary with symbolic meanings—are therefore significant in the re-creation of meanings.

The authors place red zone settings in a comparative framework. It is widely recognized that resilience is not a general principle, but must always be asked as ‘resilience of what to what’? (Carpenter et al. 2001). Communities that have faced slow erosion of community capacity through outmigration of industry, jobs, services, and youth face different immediate challenges vis-à-vis resilience than communities that have thus experienced violent conflict or catastrophic disaster. However, these challenges may shift over time in such a way as to be more consistent with those faced by communities which have been subjected to rapid devastation. Making comparisons across these community types may help us to gain a deeper understanding of the multiple manifestations of biophilia and topophilia, including how they are played out in activities such as greening, and their role as a source of resilience in social-ecological systems.


Topophilia Place attachment Urban decline Restoration of place 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural ResourcesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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