June 5, 2017

Why your office needs an Environment Day

What’s in a Day?

Happy World Environment Day!

I know! It seems like an odd greeting on a Monday, when we’re beating the blues from inside that concrete building we fondly call Office. Chances are we might have missed it if not for the change in the Google doodle – today it’s green and you see two tiny leaves sprouting off the ‘l’. Cute.

But what does it mean to us- the digitally-tweeting, Netflixing, reality-augmenting, quantified-selfing, selfie-sticking, bitcoin-paying, shared-economying, start-uping, disruptively-scaling, big-dataing humans that inhabit this singular planet? What’s in a day?

We’re still Apes

Nothing. Except that we’re still apes. In the roughly 30 billion years of human evolution, we’ve been living in modern cities only for the last 300 years. That means, if you and I were sitting in the classroom of evolution from kindergarten to high school, learning survival with and from trees, birds, insects, animals, water, mud, we got a detention just about an hour ago. Is it possible to unlearn that soon?

Of course not. We are wired to feel better, live better, and in more capitalist terms ‘perform’ better when elements of nature are present around us. This phenomenon is called Biophilia, first postulated by famous psychologist Erich Fromm. Since then there have been many studies on how nature or the lack of it in our built environment influences our mental and physical health in ways we aren’t conscious of. There’s a little early man or woman in our heads, that craves for some green, some chirping sounds.

sandra monkey brain

 

And if that doesn’t sound like you, you probably haven’t tried isolating yourself in a concrete cloister for months. Or lived in outer space!

Sandra Bullock from the final scene in Gravity, when she just lands on earth after a long space ordeal

Sandra Bullock from the final scene in Gravity, when she just lands on earth after a long space ordeal

 

 

So for very selfish reasons!

So, not for Environment’s sake, not for the sake of melting glaciers that may not end up flooding your apartment in your life time, not for the sake of saving your future generation, but for our very own selfish interest, it makes sense to bring home some plants, some blast from our forgotten past. I’d say, lets bring them our work desks because that’s where we spend most of our time (unless you are a lucky freelancer). If you’re a capitalist, that’s where we can be more productive! If you’re an activist, that’s where we can influence a lot more people and start a tiny, green revolution.

But…

I know what you’re thinking.

But Plants are so much maintenance.

Well not if you choose wisely. Some of them can be very non-fussy, my favourite being succulents. Some of these ancient plants have survived the ice-age and massive drying out of earth’s environments. So they’re quite capable of surviving a little human neglect 🙂

Tiny, hardy succulent that needs very little watering

Tiny, hardy succulent that needs very little watering

But my office gets little natural light.

Look for indoor plants the natural habitat of which is under the canopy of trees in dense forests. Growing plants successfully is all about simulating their natural environments.

But how about tricking my brain into Biophilia with artificial greenery around me!
Your brain’s smarter than you think! Studies like this one demonstrate that since we have evolved with real greenery for centuries, our unconscious mind can tell the difference, and artificial greenery doesn’t tickle your mind the way the real stuff does.

Butt in!

So intrude the workspace with your ancient friends.
Start small, maybe one plant on your desk.
Scale slowly, just like nature. You learn a lot more by observing a few plants than by getting overwhelmed by many.

And the next time you see a co-worker showing strange signs of mood swings, perhaps the pre-industrialised side of his brain needs a little dose of plant love!

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