How Nature Does It
Where can we look for inspiration in problem solving and design? How about nature? As Janine Benyus points out, nature has been conducting a research-and-development effort for nearly 4 billion years. What we see in our world today are the successful outcomes of that long process.
Throughout most of human history, people have imitated nature; this is now called biomimicry. In fact, the separation between human activity and nature has only recently been made possible. We now have technological advances that allow us to attempt to overcome rather than cooperate with and learn from nature.
We have much to learn from looking carefully at how nature does things. Our bird-and-plane icon highlights one such example: people succeeded in building flying machines by imitating nature. For instance, in 1948 Swiss chemist George de Mestral copied the way cockleburs clung to his dog's coat. We know this invention as Velcro.
In Adventures in Skydiving we see how people can glide like birds or flying squirrels. Another example is the way in which termites in Africa and Australia construct and maintain their mounds to achieve climate control in the face of large daily temperature fluctuations in the surrounding environment. People have incorporated the termites’ climate-control techniques into buildings. We make reference to these strategies in the Energy-Efficient Building project.
As you browse the SEED Web site, look for the "How Nature Does It" icon. It signals a link to an interesting story about how we can learn from Nature.