Our copy of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, by Janine M. Benyus was purchased at an onsite bookstall during the Central Coast Bioneers Conference in October 2012.
I was hooked from the first sentence, “It’s not ordinary for a bare-chested man wearing jaguar teeth and owl feathers to grace the pages of The New Yorker, but these are not ordinary times.”
Biomimicry is about learning from the non-human members of nature and applying that knowledge to design and make products, systems, businesses, and cities that fit in on earth.
The first chapter serves as an introduction to nature’s laws, strategies, and principles that are woven throughout the book.
- Nature runs on sunlight.
- Nature uses only the energy it needs.
- Nature fits form to function.
- Nature recycles everything.
- Nature rewards cooperation.
- Nature banks on diversity.
- Nature demands local expertise.
- Nature curbs excesses from within.
- Nature taps the power of limits.
Each chapter covers a different topic: food, energy, manufacturing, health, computing, business, and the future. Benyus gives readers a glimpse of the work that was being done in these areas by sharing information and stories she gathered during numerous interviews with experts all across the country.
While reading Biomimicry, I marked several passages that seemed to exemplify issues addressed in the book. Here are a few.
“For society, it may mean changing economic policies so that our well-being, including our environmental well-being, is reflected in the gross national product.”
“Our greatest sin is this overengineering—we may not be able to live forever, but we make darn sure that our waste will.”
“Even negatives, like pollution, cancer, and other ills, are seen as positives so long as we keep cranking out products to deal with the cleanup or the cure.”
The Bottom Line
Janine Benyus is a biologist, innovation consultant, and author. Since the release of Biomimicry, Benyus co-founded the Biomimicry Guild and the Biomimicry Institute (TBI) which later came together as Biomimicry 3.8 and its nonprofit partner Biomimicry 3.8 Institute.
In Biomimicry, Benyus did an excellent job of describing some fairly complex scientific research in words that non-scientists could understand. I was only lost a few times. Her writing style is down to earth and sprinkled with unexpected but enjoyable humor.
The book was published in 1997 and I am interested in continuing my learning by following up on some of the research and studies to see where they are at now. Although some of the science might be outdated, the message is still just as relevant. We can learn a lot from others in nature.
Everyone should read this book.
When Biomimicry was published 15 years ago, CO2 in the atmosphere was at 355 ppm (parts per million), at the writing of this post in 2013 it is about 392 ppm.