Biomimicry — Book Review

Biomimicry Book CoverOur 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.”

Book Review

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.

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Central Coast Bioneers — Breakthrough Solutions for People and Planet

Central Coast Bioneers LogoI read about the Central Coast Bioneers conference in the Sierra Club Santa Lucia Chapter newspaper. It sounded interesting so I checked out the Central Coast Bioneers website and then bought tickets for us to attend the October 2012 conference. It was a fun, educational, and inspiring weekend, and we look forward to attending the 4th annual Central Coast Bioneers next year.

Central Coast Bioneers Conference

The main Bioneers conference was held in northern California. Those of us attending the Central Coast Bioneers conference, otherwise known as Beaming Bioneers, were able to see and listen to the plenary speakers and performers via a satellite feed. Local activities in the afternoons included workshops, field trips, a seed exchange, green marketplace, local food, silent auction, green car show, films, and entertainment by local musicians.

Green Marketplace

The green marketplace consisted of product and service vendors, as well as booths for nonprofit organizations. A local bookstore, Volumes of Pleasure Bookshoppe, set up an impromptu bookstore on the premises and offered a selection of books written by plenary speakers and related topics. I purchased several books, including a pop-up version of one of my favorites, The Lorax, by Dr. Suess.

Silent Auction

Generous sponsors donated a wide variety of goods and services for the silent auction. We scored a native plant consultation and kayak tour.

Extreme Green Car Show

Across the street we had an opportunity to check out green cars that already meet or exceed the recently set Federal fuel efficiency rules for auto makers of 54.5 MPG or equivalent by 2025. Unfortunately, we did not get to test drive the Tesla sports car.

Organic Farm Field Trip

We opted for the organic farm field trip one afternoon and visited two organic farms, one raising animals, oranges, and avocados; and the other organic produce.

Old Creek Ranch Hass Avocado OrchardAt Old Creek Ranch, we were greeted by Bob Blanchard, two dogs, and a goat named Stuey. Bob and Terri Blanchard are the second generation to run this ranch which raises 100% grass-fed beef, goat, and lamb meat; pasture raised pork, eggs, and organic oranges and avocados. Bob imparted a wealth of information in a humble and often humorous manner. We learned about how the ranch has migrated over the years to their current philosophy of, “organically grown in harmony with nature”.

It is my understanding from listening to Bob that Terri Blanchard is the brains behind the ranch’s marketing program. She was busy getting ready for a weekend trip to sell the ranch’s products up north, but graciously stopped what she was doing to allow us to purchase delicious fresh squeezed orange juice and avocados right off the tree.

Los Osos Valley Organic Farm StrawberriesWhen we arrived at Los Osos Valley Organic Farm, Jim Terrick welcomed us with a big smile and enthusiastically showed us around his organic produce farm and shared his vision. He was a fount of information about everything from soil to seeds. Jim talked about some of the challenges associated with organic farming. I didn’t realize critters can be more of a problem than insects.

He showed us the insulated bags that were being prepared for their weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Members receive a weekly selection of fresh seasonal organic produce picked fresh from the farm. That sounded fun and delicious. Later in the week we signed up for the winter season.

Green Home Tour

The next day we had the opportunity to visit four green homes from a tiny studio apartment to a multi-family property.

The first home was a renovated apartment chock full of energy saving devices and “green” building materials.

The next property contained several buildings that were different yet created a unified whole. The owner claimed he was not “green” he just like reusing old stuff. There was a story behind most of the materials and a surprise around every corner.

The third home was a craftsman style bungalow that had been expanded and remodeled by a local architect who designs green educational facilities. The photovoltaic system on the roof produces the home’s electricity and recharges the family’s electric car.

The last home was a newer home that had been designed and built incorporating “green” features such as high levels of insulation, overhangs that help maintain comfortable temperatures, and bamboo flooring.

Central Coast Bioneers ConferenceWe are thankful to Stacey Hunt, Michael Jencks, and Celia Zaentz for creating the first Central Coast Bioneers conference in 2010 and continuing to put on this wonderful event year after year.

Hopefully more Beaming Bioneers groups will form around the country so more people can experience this fantastic organization.

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