Why We Love the Ocean

Submitted by Catherine Schmitt on Thu, 08/10/2017 - 10:39
A woman holds a young child in waves at the edge of the sea.

The essay “Why We Love the Ocean,” published in Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors 30th anniversary issue, relies on a large and growing literature of the history, science, and philosophy of human connections with the natural environment.

Accessible version (PDF)
Printable version (PDF)

Below is a selected bibliography used for the article.

General Reference

Kaplan, R., and S. Kaplan. 1989. The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. CUP Archive.

Louv, R. 2016. Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life. Algonquin Books.

Louv, R. 2011. The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books.

Nichols, W. 2015. Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. Back Bay Books.

Tuan, Y-F. 1990. Topophilia: A study of environmental perceptions, attitudes, and values. New York: Columbia University Press.

Williams, F. 2017. The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. New York: W.W. Norton.

Wilson, E.O. 1984. Biophilia. Harvard University Press.

Human Preference for Water

Bell, S.L., C. Phoenix, R. Lovell, and B.W. Wheeler. 2015. Using GPS and geo-narratives: a methodological approach for understanding and situating everyday green space encounters. Area 47:88–96.

Florida, R., C. Mellander, and P.J. Rentfrow. 2013. The Happiness of Cities. Regional Studies 47(4):613-627.

Palmer, S.E., K.B. Schloss, and J. Sammartino. 2013. Visual Aesthetics and Human Preference. Annual Review of Psychology 64:77-107.

Valtchanov, D., and C.G. Ellard. 2015. Cognitive and affective responses to natural scenes: effects of low level visual properties on preference, cognitive load and eye-movements. Journal of Environmental Psychology 43:184-195.

Mental + Physical Effects

Anwar, Y. 2015. Can awe boost health? Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Atchley, R.A., D.L. Strayer, and P. Atchley. 2012. Creativity in the wild: Improving creative reasoning through immersion in natural settings. PloS One 7(12): e51474.

Biederman, I., and E. Vessel. 2006. Perceptual pleasure and the brain. American Scientist 94:248-255.

Bratman, G.N., G.C. Daily, B.J. Levy, and J.J. Gross. 2015. The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning 138:41-50.

Chen, Z., Y. He, and Y. Yu. 2016. Enhanced functional connectivity properties of human brains during in-situ nature experience. PeerJ 4:e2210.

Gesler, W.M. 1992. Therapeutic landscapes: medical issues in light of the new cultural geography. Social Science & Medicine 34(7):735-746. (+ related citations)

Green, K., and D. Keltner. 2017. What happens when we reconnect with nature. Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

Lee, K.E., K.J. Williams, L.D. Sargent, N.S. Williams, and K.A. Johnson. 2015. 40-second green roof views sustain attention: The role of micro-breaks in attention restoration. Journal of Environmental Psychology 42:182-189.

Nutsford, D., A.L. Pearson, S. Kingham, and F. Reitsma. 2016. Residential exposure to visible blue space (but not green space) associated with lower psychological distress in a capital city. Health & Place 39:70-78.

Seresinhe, C.I., T. Preis, and H.S. Moat. 2015. Quantifying the impact of scenic environments on health. Scientific Reports 5.

Stellar, J.E., et al. 2015. Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion 15(2):129.

Wheeler, B.W., M. White, W. Stahl-Timmins, and M.H. Depledge. 2012. Does living by the coast improve health and wellbeing? Health & Place 18(5):1198-1201.

White, M.P., S. Pahl, B.W. Wheeler, L.E.F. Fleming, and M.H. Depledge. 2016. The ‘Blue Gym’: What can blue space do for you and what can you do for blue space? Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 96(1):5-12.

Zijlema, W.L., et al. 2017. The relationship between natural outdoor environments and cognitive functioning and its mediators. Environmental Research 155:268-275.

Societal + Community Benefits

Kaplan, R., and S. Kaplan. 2005. Preference, restoration, and meaningful action in the context of nearby nature, pp. 271-298 in Urban Place: Reconnecting with the Natural World. MIT Press.

Weinstein, N., A.K. Pryzbylski, and R.M. Ryan. 2009. Can nature make us more caring? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (35)10:1315-1329.

Zhang, J.W., et al. 2013. An occasion for unselfing: beautiful nature leads to prosociality. Journal of Environmental Psychology 27:61-72.

Evolution + Biophilia

Cunnane, S.C., and M.A. Crawford. 2014. Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development: implications for brain expansion during human evolution. Journal of Human Evolution 77:88-98.

Ramzy, N.S. 2015. Biophilic qualities of historical architecture: In quest of the timeless terminologies of ‘life’ in architectural expression. Sustainable Cities and Society 15:42-56.

Salingaros, N.A., and I.I. Masden. 2008. Neuroscience, the natural environment, and building design, pp. 59-83 in Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life (S.R. Kellert, J. Heerwagen, and M. Mador, edss). New York: John Wiley.


Blei, D. 2016. Inventing the beach: the unnatural history of a natural place. Smithsonian.com, 23 June 2016.

Corbin, A. 1994. The Lure of the Sea: the Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World. University of California Press.

Foley, R. 2016. Healing Waters: Therapeutic Landscapes in Historic and Contemporary Ireland. Routledge.

Gillis, J.R. 2012. Life and death of the beach. The New York Times, 30 June 2012.

Nicolson, M.H. 1959. Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory: The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Paine, L. 2013. The Sea & Civilization: A Maritime History of the World. New York: Knopf.

Swanson, A. 2016. The weird origins of going to the beach. The Washington Post, 5 July 2016.