In the mid-1980s, while Gordon Gekko was extolling greed, biologist Edward O. Wilson was going in a totally different direction. In a hypothesis called biophilia, he said human beings were inexorably, biologically drawn to the natural world, and that our connection to that world is essential to our wellbeing.
In an age that finds humanity getting farther away from nature with each passing year and faster Internet connection, and with depression, ADD, anxiety and road rage becoming as commonplace as hiccups, it seems as though we perhaps should have given biophilia greater attention.
If getting closer to nature -- or even noticing our natural surroundings on a regular basis -- can increase our enjoyment of life, then getting on a bike instead of in a car can make a profound difference in people's overall satisfaction with life. Greater satisfaction could decrease levels of violence and depression.
If everyone took a shortcut through a park instead of an alley, it could end up saving the world. Or at least a few billion good moods. (And wouldn't you rather that finger on the button be a happy finger?)
Smelling the roses on a bicycle is a good step toward a planetary makeover, but other benefits are more concrete -- like pouring less concrete (and asphalt).