Second Nature: The Biomimicry Evolution explores the emerging discipline of biomimicry, the science of emulating nature’s best ideas to solve human problems. Set in the wilds of South Africa, the film follows biologist, author, and Time magazine “Hero of the Environment” Janine Benyus and the Biomimicry 3.8 Institute team as they illustrate how organisms in the natural world can teach us how to be more efficient and sustainable engineers, chemists, architects, and business leaders. After 3.8 billion years, life has discovered not only how to survive but also how to thrive as a system. Benyus brings a deep affection and admiration for the natural world as she guides the viewer toward a vision of a planet in balance between continued human progress and ecosystem survival
Film length: 25 minutes
Format: High Definition
Director: Guy Lieberman
Producers: Guy Lieberman and Matthew Rosmarin
Year completed: 2010
Second Nature: The Biomimicry Evolution was an official selection of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (February 11 – 20, 2011), the Cleveland International Film Festival (March 24 – April 3, 2011), Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival(October 12 – 16, 2011), and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival (January 13 – 15, 2012).
To accompany the film’s use in class, discussion and activity guides are available for upper elementary grades through university. If you plan to use the film in class, please purchase a copy of Second Nature with an educational license.
Director’s Statement | Guy Lieberman
The first time I viewed a TED talk, it was of Janine Benyus’ presentation on biomimicry. I fell in love with both the platform of “Ideas Worth Spreading” and the content of that specific talk. I have been unable to shake the association between the two; my discovery of both TED and biomimicry became inextricably linked. It was a turning point for me – I experienced a clear vision of a technological future that was positive, seen from my perspective as a filmmaker as well as someone deeply drawn to our natural world.
When Matthew Rosmarin approached me about a year later to ask if I would direct a film on biomimicry with Janine Benyus, I considered if there was a scientific explanation for providence. Janine was coming to South Africa to lead a professional’s course in biomimicry that would take place at Leshiba Wilderness, a pristine valley set high in the Soutpansberg Mountains. There, in this extraordinarily biodiverse setting, we would have time to explore biomimicry at length, including several in-depth interview sessions with Janine and her colleagues from The Biomimicry Institute, including Executive Director Bryony Schwan.
Space on the course was limited. Thirty delegates came from across the world and from myriad sectors – from architects to microbiologists, bankers to designers, engineers to oil industry changemakers. We were in a concentrated space of learning and discovery, together with some brilliant minds. All felt the same sense of urgency; if we don’t make the connection between the genius of natural processes and the blindness of today’s technology, our current materials economy is very likely going to spiral into a deadlock. And yet there was a buoyancy among the attendees and course leaders. At one point, I asked Janine why it felt that the meme could potentially spawn a spiritual tradition. She said because biomimicry was so full of hope.
Not a biological term. But it distilled things to a point. On one occasion a heated issue came up, which stirred some debate. Apparently some geneticists had spliced a spider gene with a goat gene, in order to pump silk, lots of it, through the goat’s mammaries. Everyone balked at the image. But the geneticists had referred to it as biomimicry, which had sent a fire of outrage through that world. The response from The Biomimicry Institute was clear: The intention is not to run nature as a machine, but rather to run machines like nature. To create conditions conducive to life.
We saw the film, the first documentary on biomimicry under the guidance of Janine Benyus and her team, as an opportunity to accelerate the intricate knowledge that is under our very feet. The Earth offers us chances, again and again, to emulate her brilliance in the natural designs that make up our world. To grasp that, while we humans have an astounding capacity to provide form and function to our systems, our teacher and ultimate reference surrounds us, whenever we wish to look.