The Beauty and Benefit of Biomimicry

By: Blair Wojcik

Have you ever looked out at the ocean and felt a deep sense of belonging amidst its vastness? Or taken a moment to observe the support and community created within a colony of ants? What if we could receive wisdom from nature, in ways that would progress us forward on a path toward greater innovation and interconnectedness? Well, we can!

Organizations like The Biomimicry Institute are a stand for this very idea. The Institute defines biomimicry as “an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” In other words, through observing Mother Earth, we can learn to imitate her inherent, infallible design and infuse her intelligence into our lives.

It’s fascinating to think that the first signs of life on Earth can be dated back to roughly three and a half billion years ago! When it comes to microbes, over four! But the modern human form only evolved about 200,000 years ago, and civilization as we know it is only 6,000 years old. That’s a very short time in the grand scheme of things. The reality is that life carries on, with or without us. So, while we are certainly an integral part of it’s unfolding (and continue to impact it greatly), there is much to learn from how it intrinsically operates, that could improve our lives, as well.

The current state of things is very interesting, as we wake up to the fact that many of the methods we’ve forged throughout centuries are not sustainable moving forward. Point being: conventional methods are no longer cutting it. According to onegreenplanet.org, the fossil fuels used today in energy, transportation, and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers emit 90 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. And deforestation, a practice that permanently destroy forests in favor of man-made infrastructure, releases enough carbon into the atmosphere to increase the rate of global warming by 50 percent. Large-scale mono-cropping and factory farms, which also create excess carbon in our atmosphere, continue to overthrow regenerative agriculture practices and humane farming. These impacts, without restraint, will last lifetimes and if continued, may prove irreversible.

But carbon in it’s pure sense is actually a very beneficial thing. Carbon is everywhere — from the oil we fuel our cars with, to the food we harvest and eat each day, to the plastic, wood, leather, rubber and ink in common products, even on to stardust. Carbon truly comprises much of what we conceptualize life to be. It is life — air and animal, both. The Carbon Cycle, then, is a vital part of managing the amount of carbon on our planet. It is a process of regulation, which allows Earth to maintain its perfect balance. Without it, the world would be uninhabitable.

Coil, oil and natural gas, however, (all considered fossil fuels) contain carbon as well. And as excess carbon in our atmosphere is toxic to life on Earth, returning carbon to the soil is a way we can manage and reverse detrimental climate change. According to our friends at The Rodale Institute, “If management of all current cropland shifted to reflect the regenerative model as practiced at the research sites…we could potentially sequester more than 40% of annual emissions. If all global pasture was managed using a regenerative model, an additional 71% could be sequestered. And even if modest assumptions about soil’s carbon sequestration potential are made, regenerative agriculture can easily keep annual emissions to within a desirable range.” Regenerative, Organic farming practices can truly help save the world, by building soil health from the inside out.

Biomimicry reflects this vision and many others with which to benefit the planet’s health and ours as well. It reminds us that nature has in fact already solved many of the problems we as humans are faced with today, and believes that “animals, plants and microbes are the consummate engineers.” Our charge, then, is to listen and learn. AskNature.org is an incredible website that shares and showcases anything you could imagine about nature-based innovation. From the benefits of perennial grain cropping as it mimics natural ecosystem behavior, to flexible self-repairing concrete that takes cues from the biological systems of trees and human skin, revolutionizing our infrastructure, to “benthic” communities within the Antarctic seas (existing at the lowest level of the water, with minimal light) who are able to recycle the limited organic nutrients they receive through the Spring and Summer and redistribute them year-round, for life support.

Truly, nature rules, and organisms adapt every day to changing circumstances. As we begin to take note of the extraordinary evolution occurring all around us, the possibilities in front of us would truly be limitless.