Biomimicry to me is a way of living, a different, nature inspired way of approaching life.
To follow this discipline one must have great respect for nature: accepting that we have flaws and that animals as small as ants could teach us revolutionary lessons requires a new humility.
There are three main categories in within biomimicry.
The first one is the emulating of natural forms. Nothing in nature is just random, everything has one function, or multiple, and a reason behind it. This includes the shape of a box fish for example that is designed this way to decrease water resistance and that has been mimicked to produce a car model that not only weights 30% less but it’s also 20% more economical that a comparable standard-production model too.
The next level is the emulating of natural processes- how things are made. How our skin self-assembles at body temperature without toxins by way of nature’s chemistry. Green chemistry attempts to mimic these benign recipes.
The third, the most fascinating one, is the mimicking of ENTIRE ecosystems. This means having an economy whose goal is to conserve rather than to destroy nature. This differentiates biomimicry with bio-utilization. Just as a leaf is part of a plant that is part of a forest that is part of a biome that is part of a sustaining biosphere; so should a box fish inspired car not be produced at mass level and distributed around the world through ships and planes otherwise it makes little difference. The whole product’s life must be sustainable, only then will we be content. ( further read here)This is why the third level ties all three together and it is considered the end goal for people working in the biomimicry sector.
However how do we achieve this third category?
It is impossible to think that from one day to another we will wake up and everything at our disposal will be sustainably produced, sustainably shipped, sustainably disposed of when necessary and won’t have any negative impacts on our planet. We must start level by level to apply biomimicry as our new way of living. Firstly by mimicking forms of nature which we are doing with novel whale-inspired wind turbines for example. But we must start making sure that products from the first and second level of biomimicry will also be part of the third level. This requires a change in society and beliefs such as considering looking after our planet a greater accomplishment than making a lot of money.
In order to make this our reality this new way of living must become the most convenient. It is impossible for us to expect that someone struggling to pay their rents will pay even more for sustainable products. We must make these new products more accessible, cheaper and therefore desirable for the masses.
Biomimicry has the potential of bringing advancements in every field, in addition it will also play a huge role in making our future more sustainable. Sustainability is our future and because of their connection, biomimicry will also receive more attention, deepening our knowledge in the field and the applications of biomimicry with it.
Neri Oxman: the proof that thinking weird is actually very beneficial to human kind
I couldn’t write an article on Biomimicry and not mention Neri Oxman, a professor that leads the Mediated Matter research group at MIT. Her team and her show what the application of not just biomimicry but chemistry, art, design, architecture, biotech, 3D printing and biomimicry can do. To solve some problems biomimicry could be enough, but biomimicry and other disciplines combined together will do more than just solve one problem but maybe even solve some we didn’t know we had in the first place. Being open minded and curious is what has makes this professor so successful and it is with people like this that biomimicry will change constantly until science and design will be one and the amount of application this implies will be infinite.
Yes, biomimicry is the future but not biomimicry alone.