Nature: inspiration for us all

I was raised in a society that regarded Nature as a resource, a refuge, an externality apart from everyday life. Our buildings, social norms, and lifestyles perpetuate the myth that we exist outside of the natural order. In this reality, it’s no surprise that we would come to see Nature only as a source of raw material and supplies for our inventions, not a model of innovation and inspiration for our most sophisticated challenges.

For example, what could Nature teach us about bonding plywood, maintaining the temperature in an apartment building, or improving the performance of olympic athletes?

Quite a lot, apparently.

On the first day of the Sustainable Enterprise Certificate’s first session, Mary Hansel –treasurer of the Biomimicry Guild– introduced us to the burgeoning practice that has attracted the attention of designers and innovators around the world.

When plywood manufacturers wanted a formaldehyde-free adhesive, Biomimicry found inspiration in mussels. When architects wanted to create a passive air-conditioning system, Biomimicry explored how termite mounds maintain a consistent temperature. When Nike wanted to create a hydrodynamic swimsuit, Biomimicry examined the way shark skin directs the flow of water around the animal.

While Biomimicry promises some enchanting design and organizational solutions, the skeptical side of me immediately drifts to the tension between Nature’s tendency to balance, and our tendency to desire more: more food, more space, more comfort, etc.

That’s a wide discrepancy for any philosophy to bridge.

My hope: as Biomimicry helps us achieve innovation in design and organizational challenges, we’ll look to Nature as a model of how to structure other parts of our lifestyles. We’re already seeing this manifest itself in the local food movement, the imperative to reduce our consumption habits, and the drive to curtail population growth.

If you have a moment, watch this TED talk about Biomimicry from Janine Benyus, the movement’s champion.

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