Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Janine M. Benyus

Biomimicry: emulating or being inspired by nature in order to solve human problems.

Benyus states three things that nature is in biomimicry: model, measure, and mentor. Nature as a model means that we try to imitate nature or are inspired by it. As a measure, nature is our ecological guide to see if our innovation is on the right track: does it work, is it appropriate, does it last? Lastly, with nature as our mentor, we should view the natural world not as what we can get out of it but as what we can learn from it.

In her book, she describes six areas where we can mimic nature: in farming (like a prairie), in gathering energy (like a leaf), in making things (like a spider), in finding cures (like a chimpanzee), in storing information (like a cell), and in business (like a redwood forest). It strikes me as fascinating how applicable the natural world is in all areas of our lives. The biomimetic innovations that make the headlines are usually only small inventions, such as sharkskin-like swimwear, gecko-feet-inspired adhesives, and so on, that will not affect an average person's life. The biggest challenge that the other areas of biomimicry face is due to the fact that they will make a large impact and require change, a whole restructuring of how we have been doing things for centuries.

After witnessing biomimicry in development in all areas of life, Benyus concludes with four steps needed for a biomimetic future.
First is quieting, where we must immerse ourselves in nature. Our connection with nature usually starts when we are children, but now in the modern era, it is hard to pull children away from the virtual world to experience the real one.
Second is listening, where we must learn about the flora and fauna that inhabit our planet. Merely learning their names and orders are not enough. We need to know their talents, survival methods, and role in the ecosystem.
Third is echoing, where we imitate or build based off of what we learned. Benyus encourages biologists and engineers to collaborate. Although both fields seem very separate, nature does chemistry, builds structures, designs systems, and manufactures just like we need to do.
Last is stewardship. We need to protect the land that we have left so that we can further learn from it and live with the earth instead of exploiting it.

A quick presentation on this book can be found here

Posted by Lydia Chang