Biomimicry by Janine Benyus - Fascinating idea--philosophy, really--that we should look to the existing designs of nature for "innovation."

Not that such an approach isn't being used. Look at how pharmaceutical companies develop compounds found in rainforests into new drugs.

But biomimicry as Benyus describes it is something deeper. It's about changing how we view ourselves in the world as much as how we seek out nature-inspired design.

One critique: Nature settles for "good enough," not "optimum," design. Results are all driven by natural selection and what is immediately sufficient for survival, not what's the best design. But even so, after 3.8 billion years of refinement, the existing designs at least provide seeds for even better ideas, ideas we wouldn't have thought of without nature's inspiration.

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

Biomimicry Philosophical Tenants and Definition

Biomimicry - From the Greek bios, life; and mimesis, imitation

Nature as model: Biomimicry is a new science that studies nature's models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems, e.g., a solar cell inspired by a leaf.

Nature as measure: Biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the "rightness" of our innovations. After 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature has learned : What works, What is appropriate. What lasts.

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

Biomimicry Laws, Strategies, Principles

  1. Nature runs on sunlight
  2. Nature uses only the energy it needs
  3. Nature fits form and function
  4. Nature recycles everything
  5. Nature rewards cooperation
  6. Nature banks on diversity
  7. Nature demands local expertise
  8. Nature curbs excesses from within
  9. Nature taps the power limits

These themes weave there way throughout the book.

Biomimicry Table of Contents

Unlike many books, the table of contents in Benyus' Biomimicry clearly outlines the scope what Biomimicry can mean to our lives and the world. Because of that clarity, I copied the table below:

  1. Echoing nature - Why biomimicry now?
  2. How will we feed ourselves? - Farming to fit the land: growing food like a prairie
  3. How will we harness energy? - Light into life: Gathering energy like a leaf
  4. How will we make things? - Fitting form to function: weaving fibers like a spider
  5. How will we heal ourselves? - Experts in our midst: Finding cures like a chimp
  6. How will we store what we learn? - Dances with molecules: Computing like a cell
  7. How weill we conduct business? - Closing the loops in commerces: Running a business like a Redwood Forest
  8. Where will we go from here? - May wonders never cease: Toward a biomimetic future

Clearly, from this point of view, biomimicry can impact everything in our lives, from our food to our understanding of our place in the universe.

How to Evaluate Innovation

Benyus feels we need to consider how an innovation will impact the planet. Here are the questions she feels we must answer of any innovation before it is pursued:

  1. Does it run on sunlight?
  2. Does it use only the energy it needs?
  3. Does it fit form to function?
  4. Does it recycle everything?
  5. Does it reward cooperation?
  6. Does it bank on diversity?
  7. Does it utilize local expertise?
  8. Does it curbe excess from within?
  9. Does it tap the power of limits?
  10. Is it beautiful?
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
by Janine Benyus
The Field Guide to Wildlife Habitats
by Janine M. Benyus & Glenn Wolff

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