“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
Nature is a powerful teacher, serving as an inspiration to humans to emulate its functioning as a solution to many of the world’s problems. Biomimicry, originating from the Greek word ‘bios’, meaning life, and ‘mimesis’, meaning to imitate, is a field that deals with exploring and learning from nature’s design to effectively formulate sustainable development plans for mankind.
Biomimicry was recognized as a field only recently, but we have drawn inspiration from nature for thousands of years. Like Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of a flying machine was based on the observation of birds to enable human flight. Likewise, the Wright Brothers who did succeed in creating the first airplane in 1903, apparently gained inspiration from observations of pigeons in flight.
Whales fins, tails and flippers inspired the design of wind turbines, which turned out to be more efficient in terms of speed and energy. Modern biomimicry research has inspired adhesive glue from mussels, solar cells made like leaves, fabric that emulates shark skin, harvesting water from fog like a beetle, and more.
Researcher Wilhelm Barthlott examined the leaf surfaces of lotus and other plants. He found that the “bumpy” structure of the lotus leaf acts like a water repellent, so it cannot coat the leaf and simply rolls off, taking along with them all dust and dirt particles. This property was mimicked by scientists with artificial material like dirt resistant additives in the paints used on cars, glass windows and so on.
In this fascinating Ted talk by Nicholas Sykes, you will get an insight about how Biomimicry can be worked in favor of sustainable development and how we can re-connect to the environment.
A study conducted by University of Bath in 2006, showed that technologies that mimic nature, reduce our dependence on energy. Man-made technology on the other hand consumes a lot of energy harming our environment in multiple ways. Another research showed that relying on nature will lead to a healthier planet.
What should we do in favor of Biomimicry?
One of the fundamental principle of Biomimicry is to let nature take its own course. But if natural resources are continuously exploited, how can humans, who are a part of nature, be on the path to development? Infrastructure, man-made technology, automobiles etc are an illusion of growth.
Nature inspired us but its tragic when we use this inspiration against nature. For example, birds inspired flight techniques and aircraft wing design, but unfortunately, after almost a decade humans were using the same planes to wage wars, throw bombs and destroy our ecosystem.
We have to get rid of our greed and preserve our environment. Nature is all around us and we should constantly observe and learn what it has to teach us. Around the globe, from students to biologists have come up with genius techniques using Biomimicry in the field of agriculture, architecture, human health and safety, minimal energy utilization, medicinal benefits, transportation etc.
Like the product designer who has developed an array of environment-friendly materials that perform like plastics but are made by mushrooms. The most popular architectural example of biomimicry is the Eastgate Centre Building in Harare, Zimbabwe, was built without any conventional air-conditioning or heating system, yet stays regulated year round saving tremendous amount of energy. The team of architects were inspired by the self-cooling mounds of African termites, who build their nest in such way that the temperature is maintained day and night, in spite of the varying degrees outside.
Biomimicry research has also inspired adhesive glue from mussels, solar cells made like leaves, fabric that emulates shark skin, harvesting water from fog like a beetle, and more.
Even nature’s numbering system, Fibonacci sequence, is present all around us. Like the young boy who noticed how trees grow based on the Fibonacci Sequence, and developed the idea to use solar panels under this pattern to maximize energy efficiency.
We must promote such ideas so that they actually come into practice. Biomimicry has huge potential to transform our world! All that is conceivable, is achievable.
We must draw our standards from the natural world. We must honor with the humility of the wise the bounds of that natural world and the mystery which lies beyond them, admitting that there is something in the order of being which evidently exceeds all our competence. ~ Vaclav Havel
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