Seeking Nature-Inspired Solutions to Climate Change
By Wendy Priesnitz
Nature can be a
great teacher. If we study and then emulate its principles, practices, and
elements, we can create sustainable solutions to the various challenges of
everyday life. This emulation is called “biomimicry.” The term comes from
the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate.
An early example
of biomimicry (although it wasn’t called that at the time) is the study of
birds to enable human flight. Although never successful in creating a
“flying machine,” Leonardo da Vinci was a keen observer of the anatomy and
flight of birds, and made numerous notes and sketches on his observations as
well as sketches of various “flying machines.” Likewise, the Wright
Brothers, who finally did succeed in creating the first airplane in 1903,
apparently gained inspiration for their airplane from observations of
pigeons in flight.
biomimicry research has inspired adhesive glue from mussels, solar cells
made like leaves, fabric that emulates shark skin, pigment-free color
inspired by butterflies, and a process that harvests water from fog like a
beetle. The fastening marvel called Velcro® inspired by the tiny hooks found
on the surface of burs, carbon-sequestering cement inspired by corals, roofs
that shed water during monsoon season and also store water for use in the
drought season – just like trees do in that environment – and energy
efficient wind turbines inspired by schooling fish are other examples of
biomimicry being used to create better products in the modern world.
Biomimicry and Climate Change
great promise for helping us combat or at least adjust to climate change.
And that is because Nature creates habitats where each organism is adapted
to its place and its conditions. As habitat conditions change, organisms are
continuously developing and changing in synch in order to survive.
Biomimicry Institute, in partnership
with the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, holds a design challenge every year
inviting participants to address critical global issues with Nature-inspired
solutions. This year the challenge is to create a product, service, or
system that combats climate change.
Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is a team competition. There are two
categories: a student-only category (high school and university) and an open
category, which any team can enter (including students). Participants use
the online Biomimicry Spiral and Toolbox to research and design a solution
using biomimicry. Category winners will be awarded cash prizes. Open
category winners will also be invited to participate in the Foundation’s
Biomimicry Accelerator and compete for the $100,00 Ray of Hope Prize™.
That prize and
the Foundation are inspired by and named for Ray Anderson, the founder and
chairman of Interface, Inc., who died in 2011. He is known for dedicating
the second half of his career leading a highly successful commercial
broadloom company to proving that sustainability was not just the right
thing to do, it was the smart thing to do for business. The Ray C. Anderson
Foundation is a U.S-based, not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to
promote and advance the concepts of sustainable production and consumption.
Climate change is, arguably, the
most important problem of our time. Channeling the powers of biomimicry to
solve it gives me great hope. As Janine Benyus, author, biologist, and
biomimicry popularizer, has said, “The more our world functions like the
natural world, the more likely we are to endure on this home that is ours,
but not ours alone.”
Wendy Priesnitz is Natural Life Magazine's editor. She has been a writer and
journalist for 40 years and has authored thirteen books.