What captures energy like leaves, has fins like a whale, skin like a lizard, eyes like a moth, and interconnected networks like mycellium? The future of engineering, design, economics, agriculture, and much more.
‘Bios’ means life, ‘Mimicry’ means imitate. Biomimicry is the practice of learning from and then emulating life’s genius to solve human problems and create more sustainable designs. Biomimicry is a design and leadership discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested ideas. Biomimicry is a branch of science, a problem-solving method, a sustainability ethos, a movement, a stance toward nature, and a new way of viewing and valuing biodiversity.
For the first time in South Africa, a combined Biomimicry/ZERI Introductory Workshop was held at Spier Biodynamic Farm in Stellenbosch. Claire Janisch (Biomimicry South Africa) and Nirmala Nair (ZERI South Africa) ran this workshop for 12 people from a mix of backgrounds – including architecture, engineering, design, agriculture, economics and medicine. The workshop explored the genius of nature through BIOMIMICRY and ZERI SYSTEMS and reconnecting to eco-conscious living and learning.
Organisms meet their challenges sustainably
Why biomimicry? Because organisms and ecosystems face the same challenges that we humans do, but they meet those challenges sustainably. The premise of biomimicry is that life has been performing design experiments in Earth’s R&D lab for 3.8 billion years and what is flourishing on the planet today are the best ideas – those that perform well in context, while economizing on energy and materials. Whatever the design challenge, the odds are high that one or more of the world’s 30 million creatures has not only faced the same challenge, but has evolved effective strategies to solve it.
Organisms are the consummate physicists, chemists, and engineers, and ecosystems are economies beyond compare. They can provide us with innovative and progressive solutions to the design, engineering and other challenges that we now face: energy, food production, climate control, benign chemistry, transportation, packaging, and more. The vision is to create products, processes, organizations, and policies – new ways of living – that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.
Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives (ZERI) is a global network of creative minds seeking solutions to world challenges. ZERI looks to nature to inspire systems solutions based on the genius inherent in nature’s systems. The common vision shared by the members of the ZERI family is to view waste as a resource and seek solutions using nature’s design principles as inspiration.
Solutions lie in connections
ZERI is contributing towards the creation of a global consciousness rooted in the search for practical solutions based on sustainable natural systems.
‘Unless we see the connections from the microscopic cellular scale to the supra global, each affecting the other in subtle yet profound ways, it is impossible to search for appropriate solutions.’
ZERI believes in working with many problems simultaneously. This approach not only facilitates the synergy of multiple solutions, but also requires different organizational approaches. Institutions are challenged to think ‘out of the box,’ facilitating inter-departmental operations. Moreover, solutions are constantly evolving, continually shaped by changing contexts. This approach brings real transformation, often in unexpected and very positive ways.
On the first day of the workshop, Claire introduced the field of Biomimicry including the basics of the biomimicry design methodologies and life’s principles. Participants had a chance to develop a bio-inspired design. Biomimicry is learning from the genius of nature to re-imagine our products, processes and systems, including how we grow our food and design our world.
The first day of the workshop ended with a tour of the green building home at Spier Biodynamic Farm and their permaculture gardens, while participants used a Life’s Principles checklist to assess the building and systems.
Dancing with nature’s intelligence
On the second day, Nirmala introduced Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) systems including the 5 kingdoms, the 5 intelligences, ZERI design principles, and case studies. Participants had the opportunity to explore the wonders of learning to dance with the intelligence of nature and working with the deeper science of nature’s design principles to inspire a new Blue Economy – business un-usual. Participants left inspired by the genius of nature, hopeful about the future of our planet, wanting to delve deeper into this new world of potential alchemy.
Claire heads up Biomimicry South Africa and runs regular Biomimicry workshops across South Africa from schools level, to university and professionals level. If you’re interested in these, contact Claire at biomimicry.net.
Nirmala Nair is a ZERI systems designer and heads up ZERI South Africa. Claire and Nirmala will be running more of these workshops in the near future. The 5 Kingdoms of Nature – ZERI Art by Pamela Salazar Ocampo (photo 3)
The bumps on the leading edge of the fins of the humpback whale (photo 4 ) have inspired innovations in wind-turbines enabling them to realize 20% greater efficiency than conventional wind-turbines. They also operate at low windspeeds, in turbulent winds and are significantly quieter.
By Claire Janisch