Apprentices of nature

Biomimicry

Do you have a problem?  The chances are nature has already solved it.  Biomimicry is one field where learning from nature is really making waves.  The phrase was coined by Janine Benyus, whose inspiring TED talks can be seen online.  One of the best places to start is by watching this Youtube video .

Janine explains how scientist, designers and engineers can look to nature to solve problems, big and small.  From making non-toxic pigments and naturally bacteria-resilient surfaces, to self-cleaning buildings, to sequestering carbon.  Spiders create threads that are ten times stronger than steel, and sea organisms build shells that are twice as hard as ceramics, but without using any of the heat we use in our kilns.

Ask nature

The website Ask Nature lets you explore many of these creative solutions and I’ve spent hours perusing it, fascinated by the seemingly impossible problems that nature has overcome.

Janine also outlines some of the principles that designers can use, such as using today’s sunlight rather than millions of year old sunlight (like our fossil fuels); like doing chemistry in water; and employing creative solutions, shifting mindsets away from chemical to physical solutions.

She tells us that life creates conditions conducive to life and that whilst benefits are passed on via genetics, what a plant or animal really does to ensure success is to create ideal conditions for thousands of generations in the future.  And to do that they modify their environment to benefit future generations of offspring,  giving them the best advantage they possibly can to survive life’s struggles.

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