What do humans need to do to live sustainably on this planet? This may have to do with how we design our technologies and cultures. But, what is the basis for these design choices? What inspiration do we draw on when we make something or when we structure our communities? There is an idea about design called “biomimicry.” The word simply means what it sounds like it means. Imitating life. Biomimicry says that nature offers design inspiration for many of our most urgent questions. So, in the next couple of posts, we’ll take a look at this idea. Because there must be a more integrated way for humans to develop ourselves and our societies.

One of biomimicry’s central concepts is that nature’s interconnection and adaptability is, to put it simply, genius. The world is brilliant. So, biomimicry seeks to copy nature’s remarkable relationships and creations. Biomimicry argues that other organisms have similar engineering agendas to humans. They also want to heat and cool structures, ward off bacteria, and to build shelter for their young. And many have been doing so for billions of years. There’s a small insect in the Namibian deserts that is able to drink water out of fog. The backs of this insect’s wings are designed to gather moisture out of the air. The moisture is then funneled into the insect’s mouth. Improbably, this animal can survive without access to groundwater. Engineers have been studying how to apply this design to buildings.

Biomimicry’s design inspirations can come from unlikely places. Whale fins, for instance, have been copied to create more efficient wind turbines. Humpback whales have ridges on their flippers that reduce drag when they swim. A manufacturer of wind turbines noticed this. They copied the whale’s ridges onto the blades of their turbines. These turbines need less wind now to rotate, which allows them to capture more energy from that wind. The answers may not be in the places we think. But biomimicry suggests that nature is a grand library offering solutions to our most pressing design questions.