Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nature Knows Best

Biomimicry is the science and art of emulating Nature's best biological ideas to solve human problems. Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature states:
"If we want to consciously emulate nature's genius, we need to look at nature differently. In biomimicry, we look at nature as model, measure, and mentor. "

Nature as model: Biomimicry is a new science that studies nature’s models and then emulates these forms, process, systems, and strategies to solve human problems – sustainably. The Biomimicry Guild and its collaborators have developed a practical design tool, called the Biomimicry Design Spiral, for using nature as model.

Nature as measure: Biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the sustainability of our innovations. After 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature has learned what works and what lasts. Nature as measure is captured in Life's Principles and is embedded in the evalute step of the Biomimicry Design Spiral.

Nature as mentor: Biomimicry is a new way of viewing and valuing nature. It introduces an era based not on what we can extract from the natural world, but what we can learn from it.

Biomimicry is already a growing scientific discipline. Pioneering advances in agriculture, medicine, and manufacturing (just to name a few) are scientists dedicated to the principle that "nature knows best". Here are just a few of them:

  • Thomas and Ana Moore and Devins Gust ( University of Arizona) are studying how a leaf captures energy, in hopes of making a molecular-sized solar cell. Their light-sensitive "pentad" mimics a photosynthetic reaction center, creating a tiny, sun-powered battery.
  • Wes Jackson (The Land Institute) is studying prairies as a model for an agriculture that features edible, perennial polycultures and that would sustain, rather than strain, the land.
  • Peter Steinberg (Biosignal) has created an anti-bacterial compound that mimics the sea purse. These red algae keeps bacteria from landing on surfaces by jamming their communication signals with an environmentally friendly compound called furanone.
  • Bruce Roser (Cambridge Biostability) has developed a heat-stable vaccine storage that eliminates the need for costly refrigeration. The process is based on a natural process that enables the resurrection plant to remain in a desiccated state for years.
  • Daniel Morse (UC Santa Barbara) has learned to mimic the silica-production process employed by diatoms. This could signal a low-energy, low-toxin route to computer components.
  • A. K. Geim ( University of Manchester) has developed a glue-free, yet sticky, tape modeled on the dry physical adhesion of the gecko's "setae" ---tiny bristles on their feet that adhere to surfaces through Van Der Waals forces. The sustainability potential here is in "design for disassembly." Assembling products using gecko tape instead of glue would allow recyclers to disassemble products without adhesive contamination.
In her book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Ms. Benyus talks about what is needed for a biomimetric revolution to take place. She says four simple, yet profound, steps are necessary:

  1. Quieting human cleverness. (Acknowledging that nature knows best.)
  2. Listening to nature. (Becoming ecologically literate by immersing ourselves in nature.)
  3. Echoing nature. (Matching human needs with nature's solutions.)
  4. Protecting the wellspring of good ideas through stewardship. (Safeguard nature.)
Learn more about biomimicry at the Biomimcry Institute and Ask Nature.

Until next time...become the change you imagine.

1 comment:

Stefanie said...
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