Janine Banyus is a pioneer in the field of biomimicry, and in her most recent talk on TED she calls on designers and innovators to ask ‘how does nature do this?’ when working on an invention or design solution. She points out that every organism in nature uses their resources and tools efficiently in order to coexist peacefully on the planet, and it would benefit humans to learn how to live this way.
Banyus’ new website Ask Nature, will eventually be a comprehensive database of nature-inspired solutions that hopefully will be a primary resource for designers in every field. She asks, ‘imagine designing spring?’… the incredible orchestration of every change in form and color throughout the world could be the greatest and most efficient design solutions ever! Given the visual from Dr. Adam Neiman below, she asks how did the relatively small amounts of air and water on the planet create conditions conducive to life?
Dr. Adam Neiman visual – the ball on the left represents the total amount of water on the Earth’s surface compared to the entire mass of Earth. The ball on the right represents the amount of air in the Earth’s atmosphere.
There are many ways to let nature inspire innovative thinking in design. For example, a cement-making company mimics the natural world by using CO2 as a component in creating their product, instead of expelling the byproduct of cement production into the air… An Amazon eel creates a 600 Volt electric charge only using the chemicals in it’s body (these are the same chemicals found in a human body!)… A wind turbine manufacturer was inspired by the scalloped edges of humpback whale’s fins to inspire a technology that reduces drag by 32%, thus increasing the amount of energy harvested.
Through her work at the Biomimicry Institute, Banyus is confident that with the help of our ‘elders’ we will learn to live on this Earth, which is ‘ours but not ours alone’.