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Living Lessons of Biomimicry

--by Janine Benyus (Mar 19, 2012)
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Biomimics are men and women who are exploring nature’s masterpieces -- photosynthesis, self-assembly, natural selection, and more–and then copying these designs and manufacturing processes to solve our own problems. I call their quest biomimicry -- the conscious emulation of life’s genius.

In a society accustomed to dominating or “improving” nature, this respectful imitation is a radically new approach, a revolution really. Unlike the Industrial Revolution, the Biomimicry Revolution introduces an era based not on what we can extract from nature, but on what we can learn from her. [...]

When we stare this deeply into nature’s eyes, it takes our breath away, and in a good way, it bursts our bubble. We realize that all our inventions have already appeared in nature in a more elegant form and at a lot less cost to the Planet. Our most clever architectural struts and beams are already featured in lily pads and bamboo stems. Even the wheel, which we always took to be a uniquely human creation, has been found in the tiny rotary motor that propels the flagellum of the world’s most ancient bacteria. [...]

I can’t help but wonder how we will use these new designs and processes. What will make the Biomimicry Revolution any different from the Industrial Revolution? Who’s to say we won’t simply steal nature’s thunder and use it in the ongoing campaign against life?

This is not an idle worry. The last really famous biomimetic invention was the airplane. We flew like a bird for the first time in 1903, and by 1914, we were dropping bombs from the sky.

Perhaps in the end, it will not be a change in technology that will bring us to the biomimetic future, but a change of heart. Our tools are always deployed in the service of some philosophy or ideology. If we are to use our tools in the service of fitting in on Earth, our basic relationship to nature–even the story we tell ourselves about who we are in the universe–has to change. [...]

At the same time that ecological science is showing us the extent of our folly, it is also revealing the pattern of nature’s wisdom reflected in all life. This time we come not to learn about nature so that we might circumvent or control her, but to learn from nature, so that we might fit in, at last and for good, on the Earth from which we sprang.

We have a million questions. How should we grow our food? How should we make our materials? How should we power ourselves, heal ourselves, store what we learn? How should we conduct business in a way that honors the Earth? As we discover what nature already knows, we will remember how it feels be a part of, not apart from, the genius that surrounds us.

Let the living lessons begin.

--Janine Benyus, in Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature


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16 Previous Reflections:

 
On Mar 28, 2014 Katie wrote:

Thank you Janine Benyus for the lovely peace, I wish everyone could give your views some thought. Here is Minnesota Design Firm!



On Mar 26, 2012 Raghvendra Srivastava wrote:
 

On Mar 26, 2012 Raghvendra Srivastava wrote:
 

On Mar 23, 2012 varsha wrote:

Namaste one and all and all in one.  ;)  This passage reminded me of different terms used to describe Nature-- life, love, ecology, interconnection, interdependence, biodiversity/species richness/true wealth (Nature's great university where all unique life forms/species live in harmony and unity).  I think of the word biomimicry as mimicking life (the process, the species, the way life works—ecology).  I have learned so much from Nature (and I feel our true nature mimics that, including how at Wednesday the Mehta/Metta family provides by allowing the abundance to spill forth and share, just how Nature does).  Nature (and children, too!) is the best teacher.  I feel humans as a species (one of the newest on the planet, in terms of the age of our planets and stars) have an ability to get in touch with the rest of life and evolve to a state of interdependence.  We just have been distracted or living life as if we were in a realm separate from t  See full.

Namaste one and all and all in one.  ;)  This passage reminded me of different terms used to describe Nature-- life, love, ecology, interconnection, interdependence, biodiversity/species richness/true wealth (Nature's great university where all unique life forms/species live in harmony and unity).  I think of the word biomimicry as mimicking life (the process, the species, the way life works—ecology).  I have learned so much from Nature (and I feel our true nature mimics that, including how at Wednesday the Mehta/Metta family provides by allowing the abundance to spill forth and share, just how Nature does).  Nature (and children, too!) is the best teacher.  I feel humans as a species (one of the newest on the planet, in terms of the age of our planets and stars) have an ability to get in touch with the rest of life and evolve to a state of interdependence.  We just have been distracted or living life as if we were in a realm separate from the rest of life’s species (when in reality, our very existence is a receiving of the abundance of Nature—from the food we eat, the structures we live in, our clothing, etc.).  Nature inspires us to see us as simply one part in the web of all life.  We are not the controllers/dominators—we are subjects, just like other life forms.  We are a part of creation, but also can act as co-creators to live more equanimously/in homeostasis/balance with all life.  I remember times of walking through the Redwood forests, in awe of the trees’ ages, magnificent heights, and unconditional love/giving of shade, oxygen, and habitat to all life’s species.  I also know that there is a certain stillness that comes about when in these woods.  It allows me to step outside my “self”/shell and experience life more wholly/holy.  It is a crying reminder that spending time (especially alone) in the natural world is soo…important to our health/wellbeing, and hence, to all of life.  One way to mimic life is to become a part of it—the process.  If we see, from/by experience that our every breath, thought, emotion, and energy are part of the one wholeness, we would live more gently on the planet (I feel stillness—akin to the metamorphosis of caterpillars to butterflies and tadpoles to frogs) is key to this experience; it allows us to listen to what’s inside our hearts and expand our hearts to include all).  I see technology as a tool (can be used wisely or unwisely) and the inner technology of BEing and truly seeing/experiencing all as one merely allows us to really see that we are a part of the Earth (our bodies are of the Earth, and so we are pieces of Earth prouncing around in a certain form for some time-frame until there is change, which is the one thing that seems to remain constant in life).  As one of the latest/newest species, I hope we learn this from our elders/older species, and live in awareness.  I also feel blessed to have heard the author speak live, and it’s AWEsome to see all the cool examples of biomimicry that exist.  :)

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On Mar 22, 2012 Dinesh Mehta wrote:
 "Audio clip from this week's circle of sharing ..."



On Mar 20, 2012 audrey wrote:
The perfect example of that is Velcro! Those lovely little burrs that get stuck on our socks when we go hiking was the inspiration for a product that not one of us can live without!

On Mar 20, 2012 Kateo wrote:
We can learn a lot from the so-called "indigenous people".   We "modern" folks often forget that ;)

1 reply: JOhn | Post Your Reply
On Mar 20, 2012 Kateo wrote:
We can learn a lot from the so-called "indigenous people".   We "modern" folks often forget that ;)

On Mar 20, 2012 Kateo wrote:
We can learn a lot from the so-called "indigenous people".   We "modern" folks often forget that ;)

On Mar 20, 2012 Edit Lak wrote:

Yes...  Everything starts when the tools of destruction are put down and the seeds of love are sown instead, with that action alone, wisdom is grown..  Wisdom and Food. .. Huh this has blown my mind, since a child I remember that we had a ‘throw your rubbish in the bins campaign’ but we never had a throw your seeds everywhere campaign so it can grow to feed all of us...  That would be great and genius.. However; I almost read this paragraph of Janine Benyus in a laughing ‘paradoxical’ state, as, ecological science is the science we needed to have from the other bio-hazardous, GM sciences we have...  We needed to make a good science – intelligence from the bad we made...  We need to get back to the Earth – Genius – Not at all..   Its almost hilarious though.. We have an amazing universe that saves us from harm, we have a lush earth that can feed, heal and protect us from all the elements, we have no bounda  See full.

Yes...  Everything starts when the tools of destruction are put down and the seeds of love are sown instead, with that action alone, wisdom is grown..  Wisdom and Food. .. Huh this has blown my mind, since a child I remember that we had a ‘throw your rubbish in the bins campaign’ but we never had a throw your seeds everywhere campaign so it can grow to feed all of us...  That would be great and genius.. However; I almost read this paragraph of Janine Benyus in a laughing ‘paradoxical’ state, as, ecological science is the science we needed to have from the other bio-hazardous, GM sciences we have...  We needed to make a good science – intelligence from the bad we made...  We need to get back to the Earth – Genius – Not at all..   Its almost hilarious though.. We have an amazing universe that saves us from harm, we have a lush earth that can feed, heal and protect us from all the elements, we have no boundaries as we are all connected to the same life sources, we have a life that contributes to the whole life of ‘us’ .. So where are we now, after the fist plain that dropped the first bomb, Nowhere, we are bio- mimics of our own fears.. we have been made as bio-human to mimic and follow others that sell a story of genius,  so while we bio-mimic and not live, we will never  have vision in the quote of  ‘Let the living lessons begin’ That’s ironic because were killing everything and still learning nothing... But... as we philosophise on where we have gone wrong ‘what’ and how to grow food ‘what’ so the world starves and dies.. Yep... Seriously...  So I think don’t mimic – start acting  - plant and grow – heal and give, no science or genius needed, as there are Positions Vacant on Earth and it requires Genuine Humans to partake in living, giving, loving, growing, learning - no gimmicks needed :-)This was interesting to read on the complexity of ‘just’ using words, words, words...Hmm.. 

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On Mar 19, 2012 Ricky wrote:

A main reason we are not a part of the genius that surrounds us is culturally we have been encouraged to have ‘dominion’ over the earth and all its inhabitants, rather than live with the earth and all its inhabitants. We have the power to break away from that view by spending time in nature, appreciating the art and creativity of the universe.  It is in a stillness and an inborn desire to find out how the universe accomplishes all it does with such patience and longsuffering when we begin to discover our place within that setting.  The author refers to the tension between control and learning, which has a lot to do with our confusion as to who we really are-ego and divine.   Frankly this desire for more understanding for me heightened while learning sustainable farming techniques and how interconnected the activities of the soil web were with plant processes (primary decomposers, tertiary decomposers, nitrogen fixers) to nurse plants, plant communi  See full.

A main reason we are not a part of the genius that surrounds us is culturally we have been encouraged to have ‘dominion’ over the earth and all its inhabitants, rather than live with the earth and all its inhabitants. We have the power to break away from that view by spending time in nature, appreciating the art and creativity of the universe.  It is in a stillness and an inborn desire to find out how the universe accomplishes all it does with such patience and longsuffering when we begin to discover our place within that setting.  The author refers to the tension between control and learning, which has a lot to do with our confusion as to who we really are-ego and divine.  

Frankly this desire for more understanding for me heightened while learning sustainable farming techniques and how interconnected the activities of the soil web were with plant processes (primary decomposers, tertiary decomposers, nitrogen fixers) to nurse plants, plant communities, interdependence, and biodiversity.  We as humans tend to muck it up by insisting on organizing this impressive chaos with monoculture mentality, synthetic inputs and genetic modifications.  And, the patterns nature offers!  http://www.world-mysteries.com/sci_17.htm is a great introduction to the fabonacci number series phenomenon of shell spirals, pine needle arrangements, tree branch placement, daisy petals, sunflowers, and on and on!
 
Books I recommend from the Bioneers Series, Nature’s Operating Instructions, and Ecological Literacy, are invaluable in their oral history accounts and how to share the wonders of nature with children.  The author here (Janine Benyus) is the first story in Nature’s Operating Instructions.  She writes on pages 8-9, “One of the many gifts of biomimicry is that you enter into deep conversation with organisms, and this student-elder dialogue absolutely fills you with awe.  Seeing nature as model, measure, and mentor changes the very way you view and value the natural world.  Instead of seeing nature as warehouse, you begin to see her as teacher.  Instead of valuing what you can extract from her, you value what you can learn from her…I’ve been on a quest to find people who are living in that fertile commingling place, the estuary between biology and human systems design.”  

Our children need us to wake up and begin to honor the incredible experience of nature and all the wonders she reveals when we slow down enough to share with her, not extract from her…she is, after all, now theirs to learn from.   
 

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On Mar 18, 2012 David Doane wrote:
 An airplane first flew in 1903, and by 1914 we were dropping bombs on people.  That's amazing and sad.  It's exciting that human beings may learn from nature, cooperate with nature, fit into nature, but I'm not optimistic.  Our disrespect for our planet and one another, our greed, our short-sightedness are in high gear.  As the author says, we humans need a change of heart, and we need it now.  It's become crucially important that we see ourselves as of earth, not on earth, as part of earth and not apart from earth.  It's time to work with earth and nature rather than try to fight, control, conquer earth and nature.  It is time to realize that we are Nature, and to work with it and take care of it is to work with and take care of ourselves.   

On Mar 18, 2012 Thierry wrote:
 Feeling a part of the genius that surrounds us is really a turning point in a person's evolution. Feeling apart from nature one is bound to mistreat and misuse it, as has been and  is still  generally the case. But the chances for  this  radical shift in consciousness to affect society at large seem low. Unless the passion for technology, which seems to inhabit nearly everyone today, succeeds where reflection and sensitivity have failed to bring the younger generations to want to cooperate rather than subjugate nature.   

On Mar 17, 2012 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.  My first impression of the implications of shifting from "apart" to "a part" of the genius that surrounds us, is a reduction or elimination of  conscious desire, and the conscious and unconscious acceptance of what is.   I heard about the value of not desiring when I was in high school but I didn't experience it until about 20 years ago. (Try it for yourself). I still forget it often and I still frequently resist what is by trying to change "it,” but I notice I am most peaceful when I greatly reduce or eliminate desire and accept what is.  Warm and kind regards to everyone.  See full.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.  My first impression of the implications of shifting from "apart" to "a part" of the genius that surrounds us, is a reduction or elimination of  conscious desire, and the conscious and unconscious acceptance of what is.   I heard about the value of not desiring when I was in high school but I didn't experience it until about 20 years ago. (Try it for yourself). I still forget it often and I still frequently resist what is by trying to change "it,” but I notice I am most peaceful when I greatly reduce or eliminate desire and accept what is.  Warm and kind regards to everyone.

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On Mar 17, 2012 Derick wrote:
Janine I can’t agree with you more that change will have to come from a change in heart, as the heart is the source of all life; the biblical perspective on the same view was modeled by David who prayed in Psalm 51: 10 (as per NIV bible): “: 10) Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me”. And the Lord answered the Prayer for all people in Ezekiel 11: 19; “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their hearts of stone and give them a heart of flesh. And the same answer also in Ezekiel 36:25 which was directed to the individual person. 

Thank you Janine Benyus for the lovely peace, I wish everyone could give your views some thought.

Regards,