The preponderance of direct neuroscientific evidence for the way that these pictures and sceneries affect our brains suggests that we are wired to find beauty in certain scenes and images, and to appreciate beauty on the whole. In his TED Talk “The Neurobiology of Beauty”, Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London goes so far as to say that beauty “originates in the brain, not in the works of art.”
If beauty is so central to the human experience, and these pictures of semi-wooded grasslands can have some a universal effect on us, then what might actual landscapes and urban green-spaces do for us? The health benefits are well noted,
especially when considering depression and other mental health issues. It’s worth noting too that one of the things that makes prison so unbearable is its sterility and lack of landscape entirely. The denial of a window to the world, is not just social isolation, it’s scenic and sensory isolation as well.
In a place as biodiverse and naturally green as Trinidad and Tobago, we benefit from a tremendous range of ecosystem services, which if not abused and destroyed are largely unappreciated. In many parts of the country, green is seen as a handicap and a liability. But if we leverage this ecological bounty, beyond the level of agriculture or even habitat preservation, we might be able to tap into a national stress reduction reservoir, that could help insulate us from the stresses of modern urban life. At the level of preventative medicine then, if we make healthy, mindful use of parks, green yards, forest reserves, and beaches, they might help us fight cancer, diabetes, and suicide, just as well as any pill, prescription, or vaccine.
Update: Shortly after this article was posted, the National Health Service Shetland implemented “nature prescriptions” to help treat high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and other issues.