Healing the Environment by Copying Nature

The Promise of Biomimicry: Resilient Design in a Climate Impacted World

Biomimicry Institute (2020)

Film Review

In this documentary Janine Benyus, co-founder of the Biomicry Institute, explains the Institute’s work.

Their main purpose is to identify natural designs that provide potential solutions for societal problems. In my view, their most important initiative is the Ask Nature.org website. The site enables scientists and engineers to enter a specific engineering problem (eg protecting from fractures, protecting from floods, producing color, conserving water) into their search engine to investigate how nature addresses it.

Because it’s rare for engineers to study biology, an engineer developing a pump would be unlikely to know that the whale heart is the most efficient pump on earth.

The Biomicry Institute partners with the Ray Anderson Foundation** to run an annual Student Design Challenge that offers prizes for the best biomimicry-inspired inventions. Among recent winners are teams that invented a solar underwater trap for mosquito larvae based on a carnivorous plant known as the bladderwort; a passive (ie energy neutral) air conditioning system based on cooling features found in cacti, termite mounds, and wheat stalks; a passive sewage treatment technology employing anaerobic bacteria found in the cow stomach; a robotic tool that seeks out water mains leaks based on the squid’s hydraulic suction cups; and a reverse osmosis desalinization filter based on the self-cleaning surface found in blood vessels and on shark and dolphin skin.

The Institute also provides marketing advice and financial assistance to help winners to bring their products to market.

*Biomimicry is the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.

**Ray Anderson, founder and longtime president of Interface Carpet and long time admirer of Benyus’, work was one of the first corporate entrepreneurs to take a strong stand on industrial ecology and sustainability.

3 thoughts on “Healing the Environment by Copying Nature

  1. Sha’Tara this is a particular branch of sustainable technology that has long interested me. So much of our society is based on 100 year old technology (particularly the grid and public water systems) that is incredibly energy inefficient.


    • I’ve always wondered how the grid people managed to maintain their incredibly clumsy, material and labour intensive systems. The endless massive maintenance done to the local sewage treatment plant, tearing up of streets to repair or expand water, sewage and draining systems. You know there’s a lot of “fudging” going on; a lot that isn’t being adressed (the plight of cities like Flint, Michigan comes to mind) and you wonder when it will suddenly just collapse, beyond possibility of any further “repairs” to the infrastructure. Anyway, just saying.

      Liked by 1 person

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