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 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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