A Biomimicry Primer

A Biomimicry Primer

(excerpt)
By Janine M. Benyus

What’s It About?


The first time I explained biomimicry to a stranger was not in a talk or a workshop, but in a big-box bookstore just after Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature had come out.  I was searching the shelves for the spine, always a breath-held-in moment for a writer.  I checked the nature section, environment, design, and engineering, but it just wasn’t there.  Before I could slink away, the bookseller appeared, and I asked him where it might be shelved.

He came back with a perfectly normal but impossible question:  “What’s it about?”

After you finish a book, a pack of ideas race to your lips, nipping and barking to be the first one out.  It’s hard to choose. “OK.  It’s about looking to nature for inspiration for new inventions,” I blurted. “It’s learning to live gracefully on this planet by consciously emulating life’s genius. It’s not really technology or biology; it’s the technology of biology.  It’s making a fiber like a spider, or lassoing the sun’s energy like a leaf.”  The growing alarm on his face confirmed it; I was postpartum and probably shouldn’t be out.

Then he lifted his palms as if weighing two packages and said something I will never forget. “Look lady, you’ve got Nature and you’ve got Technology; you’ve got to choose one.”  He was referring to the category scheme in the store, but I realized that the deep, deep separation between those two ideas in our culture was why biomimicry was squirming to be born.

 

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