"To think of the sheer volume of how many people now integrate some kind of nature-inspired and interconnected design thinking process is awe-inspiring. While not everyone came to the [biomimicry] practice from reading Janine’s book, to us at the Biomimicry Institute it served as the catalyst for our inception."
This week's guest blog comes from Lex Amore, director of communications for the Biomimicry Institute. The recorded version of the May 20th event that she mentions in the blog is available here.
A decade ago I felt lost, confused, and anxious. I had just learned about climate change and was shocked the state of our planet wasn’t introduced to me sooner. Once my privilege bubble popped and I realized I was actively contributing to the problem, I immediately began changing my habits. But the more I learned, the more wicked the global quandary became. I marched for climate action, was trained by Al Gore and his team through the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, and joined a full-service public relations firm focused on sustainability. Still, I found myself paralyzed and distraught to find my place in the agency of change.
Then one day I saw a video from Dayna Baumeister speaking at Bioneers, and she introduced me to the concept of biomimicry—an idea that offered an integrated process to brainstorm creative ideas and solve challenging problems, like those related to climate change.
It was a pathway to go back: discover the ways our ancestors sustained life in collaboration with the other inhabitants of this planet in sharing land, water, and air. The practice called for asking the human and non-human elders that are alive today how to live in abundance and reciprocity.
Biomimicry is the conscious emulation of nature’s wisdom. And it’s actually not a new concept for humans—rather, it is a renewed philosophy set in modern times, and a scientific approach to design thinking. It’s a framework that flows like a spiral, rather than an arrow. I learned that going back to the ways our ancestors lived didn’t mean going backward in evolution. It’s about changing the way we do things: to take the human ingenuity learned from the past few hundred years and redesign these technologies, processes, and systems so they function in a way that is interconnected, dynamic, and adapting to society’s ever-changing needs.
Biomimicry offered me an invitation to be curious, to learn, and to adapt my behavior. Learning about the design methodology gave me the tools to approach any problem with confidence:
- Scope the problem.
- Discover solutions by asking nature how other organisms, processes, and systems have solved similar problems.
- Create ideas for an application and test.
- Iterate and go back through the steps as needed.
- Evaluate how well the solution works to solve the defined problem, while also creating opportunities to support the environment in which it is conceived, used, and eventually retired.
Does the solution create conditions conducive to Life just as nature does?
Now, six years since watching that video that first introduced me to the concept of biomimicry, thereby changing the lens through which I see the world, I have a Masters of Science in Biomimicry from Arizona State University where I was trained by and served as a teaching assistant to Dayna herself. I serve as Communications Director for the Biomimicry Institute, the nonprofit organization that provides education and tools for young people and young startups and everyone in-between and beyond. In less than a month, I get to host Janine Benyus, the woman who wrote the book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature 25 years ago, for a Biomimicry Fireside Chat. And leading up to that incredible event, I get to be part of a virtual story sharing with other biomimicry practitioners lending their voices from around the world.
To think of the sheer volume of how many people now integrate some kind of nature-inspired and interconnected design thinking process is awe-inspiring. While not everyone came to the practice from reading Janine’s book, to us at the Institute it served as the catalyst for our inception. It birthed AskNature.org. It created our sister organization, the consultants at Biomimicry 3.8, which has rolled out many cohorts over the years through their professional development and certification offerings. It channeled the path for my education at ASU through the Biomimicry Center’s program, which has taught hundreds of practitioners across industries. And the book has inspired many other practitioners around the world.
What’s your story? Who taught you how to quiet your cleverness and deeply observe the biological world? Maybe it was Leonardo Da Vinci or the Māori people of New Zealand who honor the natural world as an integral part of human existence, not abstract from it. We want to hear from you and how you got here.
Today, biomimicry to me is not only a design framework or a philosophy—it’s a way of life. I embed the (re)connect element in my daily practice. I make choices on how to embody the ethos of honoring Life in my thoughts and actions. And I actively seek opportunities to emulate functions in my personal and professional life to mimic the way nature would approach a challenge—with an intention of regeneration, balance, and reciprocity.
I pursued biomimicry to champion collaboration. We are inherently interconnected. May the Biomimicry Institute serve as your platform, a grounding and coming home to the basics of applying this practice across your life. May we help you find your community and celebrate your achievements. On behalf of the team, we thank you for making a difference in your sphere of influence and the global society as a whole—for it is when we shift our thoughts and behaviors, we shift what our society chooses to value.
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