'The biophilic university': A de-familiarizing organizational metaphor for ecological sustainability?

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Authors: Jones, D.R.

Journal: Journal of Cleaner Production

Volume: 48

Pages: 148-165

ISSN: 0959-6526

DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.02.019

A new primary, root metaphor the 'Biophilic University', is introduced here, underpinning a potential defamiliarizing human-nature narrative and heuristic to contest and break free of what is conceptualised as the dominant performative, instrumental sustainability agendas and discourses within universities. This metaphor, drawn from evolutionary psychology literature introduces the narrative of the Biophilia Hypothesis which claims that humans possess a biologically based attraction to certain aspects of the natural environment and that their well-being depends, to a great extent, on the relationships with the surrounding natural world. Within this paper, it is argued that the Biophilia Hypothesis thereby represents the conceptual underpinning of the 'Biophilic University' metaphor: 'A university which restores an emotional affinity with the natural environment.' The paper identifies possible implications of a potential enactment of the Biophilic University metaphor including the importance of organizational aesthetics around bio-cultural connection, the transdisciplinary input from non-instrumental disciplines such as the arts and the central role of the natural environment as a heterochrony in informing generative physical, virtual and social space of universities. In order to contextualise such a perspective, two university inspired initiatives were tentatively critically reflected upon: 'The University in a Garden' in Malaysia and the 'Oberlin Project' in the U.S.A. The paper concludes by reflecting upon the strengths of both initiatives: the transdisciplinary implementation and engagement of say the Oberlin Project with the philosophical, heterotopic, reflexive space of the 'University in a Garden'. It finally reflects upon the fundamental implications for more mainstream universities. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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