The Law of Love on Valentine’s Day

In honour of Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d revisit David Suzuki’s chapter “The Law of Love” from his book The Sacred Balance to give all the lovers out there a few words to live by. The Sacred Balance is an examination of our place in the natural world in light of sweeping environmental changes and ever-changing advances in scientific knowledge.

In this chapter, Suzuki touches on all the different loves human beings thrive on and how they suffer when deprived of them. He walks us through romantic love, like how dopamine and oxytocin create that famous chemistry and why prairie voles mate for life (sexy stuff!).

There’s also the not insignificant love between parent and child. Researchers have found that when children are deprived of parental care, the harm is not only emotional, but they can experience severe developmental delays.

Lastly, he explores the connection between human beings and the Earth. Suzuki makes a scientific and philosophical case for love of the natural world that is nothing short of romantic:

‘The Law of Love’

excerpted from The Sacred Balance

The evolutionary context of human history makes it plausible that the human genome—the DNA blueprint that makes us what we are—has over time acquired a genetically programmed need to be in the company of other species. Edward O. Wilson has coined the term “biophilia” (based on the Greek words for life” and “love”) for this need. He defines biophilia as “the innate tendency to focus on life and life-like processes.” It leads to an “emotional affiliation of human beings to other living things…Multiple strands of emotional response are woven into symbols composing a large part of culture.

Elders, poets and philosophers in all cultures, including our own, have expressed a similar sense of brotherhood or sisterhood, of mutual compassion and common interest with the rest of the living world—a relationship that can only be described as love. Its source is “fellow-feeling”: the knowledge that we are, like all other forms of life, children of the Earth, members of the same family.”

Watch children respond to a wasp or butterfly. Infants seem drawn to an insect’s movement and colour, often reaching out to touch it. They exhibit neither fear nor disgust, only fascination. Yet by the time they enter kindergarten, enchantment with nature has often been replaced with revulsion as many children recoil in fear or loathing at the sight of a beetle or fly. By teaching children to fear nature, we increase our estrangement and fail to satisfy our inborn biophilic needs. We sever the connections, the love that infuses our actions with compassion for our fellow beings…Biophilia provides us with a conceptual framework through which human behaviour can be examined and evolutionary mechanisms suggested. It is a new story, which includes us in the living world around us, restoring us to our long-lost family.


Built into the fundamental properties of matter is mutual attraction that could be thought of as the basis for love. For human beings, love…is the humanizing force that confers health in body and mind. Receiving love releases the capacity for love and compassion that is a critical part of living together as social beings. That love extends beyond those of our own species – we have an innate affinity for other life-forms. If we are to deliberately plot a sustainable future, the opportunity for each of us to experience love, family and other species must be a fundamental component.

In short, he submits that we cannot live without these core connections to others and to our environment; that they have been a vital part of human lives for as long as our species has existed. While plotting a sustainable future, we must seek this balance. We simply cannot experience the full breadth of humanity without it. Love will keep us together, essentially.

It’s easy to feel a little cynical about a day when you’re culturally obligated to buy chocolates and jewelry and the romance can seem forced, but hopefully this broader definition of why love matters will put you in the spirit of things. So, this Valentine’s Day consider taking your significant other, family member or friend for a walk outdoors. You won’t regret it.

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