What Nature Can Teach Us

If we are concerned about sustainability in our lives, all we have to do is look around. Many of our problems have already been solved, naturally. Or, as Steve Jobs once said, “I think the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology.”

Of course, we already have benefited from the world around us. The Wright Brothers studied pigeons while designing their first flying machine. And those tiny hooks on burrs inspired the invention of Velcro.

That’s progress, but we really need to kick it up a couple of notches. Nature creates brilliant colors without dyes; we use an estimated 750,000 metric tons of dyes for our fabrics each year. In 2013, Los Angeles commuters spent about 685,000,000 hours stuck in traffic; when was the last time you saw birds in a traffic jam?

Fortunately, some of us are working on this — there a branch of science called biomimetics or biomimicry; it even has its own institute. The Biomimicry Institute defines its field as “an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” ( https://biomimicry.org/ )

It’s a fascinating subject. Pomelo fruit can fall over 30 feet before they strike the ground, yet they show no signs of damage. Their secret is the peel structure, which we are copying for aluminum composites. Owls fly without creating turbulence or noise, thanks to serrated feather shapes. So if you live near an airport…

I hope this gives you an idea of where the field is going. There’s a lot more information on the Institute’s website. They accept donations, too.

And after having lived in the Los Angeles area for four years, I wish them well.

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