Dispatch from SSC Intern Kang Chang
Mankind currently faces a wide assortment of development problems that include sustainable energy production, life threatening water scarcity issues, sustainable building methods, and corporate social irresponsibility. As we now begin to keenly ask how we should design our products, businesses, and industries in a sustainable manner we only have to look outside for inspiration.
Every species that exists today has gone through an exhaustive Darwinian refinement by nature to be an efficient, effective and often beautiful example of a way to exist. The great abundance of existing species shows us there are (or were) plenty of resources on Earth for all species to coexist. Biomimicry is a field of study undertaken to look at the designs, processes, cycles, and mechanisms by which other species have thrived, in order to adapt some of these principles to our own products, processes and even management strategies.
A quick Google search of the term “biomimicry” will turn up hundreds of inspiring and fantastic examples of how human-kind has used the power of our minds, which have gone through the same Darwinian refinement, to adapt natures’ solutions to solve various anthropocentric problems. One of the many examples can be encountered in the self-healing building materials or polymers. The inspiration comes from bones, which are able to target and fill minor cracks within themselves to avoid further breakage. Applications of this sort of strategy can be immensely useful in creating more durable products and infrastructure. Janine Benyus and the Biomimicry Institute are currently cataloguing a complete list of these types of natural ideas at http://asknature.org/.
It is easy to see we have yet to design any machine capable of flying with the grace of a common seagull or reproduce many of the other physical engineering feats of nature, but how far does this analogy of “mother nature as teacher” go? Does the analogy have solutions to our social, or more seemingly distinctive human activities such as, business management or product life cycles?
It turns out that it does and this will be something discussed in the second part of this brief glimpse at biomimicry.