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Ripples of Change: Embracing Biophilia on Earth Day

"Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.” Nelson Mandela’s words echo a profound truth: our smallest actions possess the power to create waves of change that ripple across the world, inspiring others to join the cause.

At the heart of this transformative potential lies our innate love for nature—a deeply ingrained instinct woven into the fabric of our DNA. This affinity, known as biophilia, finds its roots in the Greek word 'philia', meaning 'love of'. Coined by psychologist Erich Fromm in 1964 and popularised by biologist Edward O. Wilson in 1984, biophilia signifies a passionate love for life and all living things.

Isobel Wylie Hutchison epitomised the profound connection between humans and the natural world. As Earth Day emerged in 1970 (the year before Greenpeace was founded) to demonstrate support for environmental protection, the then 81 year old was leaving her role as Vice President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. While the seventies ushered in an era of space exploration, Isobel remained deeply rooted in the wilderness, embodying a perspective aligned with the indigenous peoples she encountered. Unlike earlier explorers who sought to conquer, Isobel embraced nature as an integral part of herself, learning from and respecting the customs and cultures of the lands she traversed.

Isobel Wylie Hutchison with nurses in Alaska


The Inuit language doesn’t have a word for ‘nature’, perhaps because they consider themselves to be part of it. Much of Isobel’s exploration was lauded for bravery in facing the harsh climate and terrain, Isobel’s own thinking was more in line with the locals.  She wasn’t striving against the elements as a challenge, but rather embracing nature and her part in it. 


Where earlier explorers had planted flags to lay a claim, Isobel learned the languages, customs and culture. Isobel's expeditions through the Arctic wilderness were not mere conquests but immersive experiences in symbiosis with nature. Traveling by dog sled, foot, and boat, she absorbed the rhythms of life dictated by the seasons, mastering traditional techniques for survival and sustenance. Through her photography, film, art, botany samples, poetry, and writing, she shared the richness of her encounters.

 Wren - image by Willfried Wende

Today, as we confront pressing environmental challenges, Isobel's story serves as a poignant reminder of our interconnectedness with the natural world. Our choices today shape the future of our environment, and by embracing our biophilic instincts, we tap into a reservoir of compassion and empathy for the Earth and its inhabitants. Biophilia teaches us that we are not separate from nature but deeply intertwined with it, sharing a symbiotic relationship.

In honouring the legacy of pioneers like Isobel Wylie Hutchison, we recognise the power of individual actions to effect positive change. As we celebrate Earth Day and beyond, let us draw inspiration from her story and embrace our role as custodians of the planet, working together to create a more sustainable and harmonious world for all.


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The North Star Explorer

Learn more about Isobel’s passion for the natural world, her experience of travelling to remote places and her encounters expressed through art and creative writing.

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