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Wednesday Wisdom: Nature as problem-solver

For all the challenges we face, Nature has a solution.
– Janine Benyus

Nature as problem-solver

Spring has finally sprung in Northern California, and Sara and I are basking in the glow of Pachamama Alliance’s Earth Day event which featured our Indigenous partners from Ecuador as well as a premier nature scientist of our time, Janine Benyus. I was honored to interview Janine, and I want to share with you the inspiring message of her life’s work, biomimicry

Bio what? If you are not familiar with the term, biomimicry is the practice of looking to Nature for inspiration to solve human design and engineering problems. Its profound insight is that Nature’s ecosystems already know what works and has sustained life on Earth since the beginning of time. Janine told us, “No matter what we need to solve, whether it’s a technical or social innovation, biomimicry is a practice where you say, ‘Okay, I’m trying to solve this big problem, what in the natural world has already done what I’m trying to do?’ It’s as simple as that.”

Janine, who heads the Biomimicry Institute and works with businesses, corporations, and institutions throughout the world, told us some amazing and inspiring stories about how nature-based solutions are poised to regenerate the planet: how wind turbines have been redesigned with hydrodynamics of owl feathers and winged maple seeds; how beavers, almost made extinct by the fur trade, are coming back and transforming streams and riverbeds; how something called “applied nucleation” (check that out) is enabling devastated landscapes to recover in much less time than expected.

Janine described an amazing project that is biomimicry-inspired: the United States Coast Guard’s new 1.2 million square foot headquarters outside Washington, DC. After discovering there was a stream at the top of the slope, the architects were inspired by beavers. The several buildings on the slope have terraced green roofs that are all connected, and when it rains, water goes down a beaver-like system – dams that slow, clean, and store water, mimicking a healthy, high-performing ecosystem.

Listening to Janine got all of us excited about the possibilities for biomimetic breakthroughs and nature-based solutions that will enable us to end the climate crisis and restore a healthy planet. I think we already know how important our connection to Nature is in our personal lives – how the song of a bird, a sunlit meadow, the sound of waves, or a simple wildflower can lift our spirits and warm our hearts. Imagine how humanity might transform if we understood and celebrated our connection to all living things! This is what Indigenous people have understood and lived by for millennia and why they are such an inspiration for the work of Pachamama Alliance and why their voices are so crucial to the future of humanity.

As Spring turns to Summer, may you find many occasions to indulge in Nature’s many pleasures, and may it inspire and fortify you for the great work we have before us to be responsible stewards of all of life.

With love and gratitude,

Lynne and Sara

Journaling & Meditation

  • How has Nature provided inspiration for you in your life?
  • What problem most interests you that you would like to know how Nature would solve?

If you would like to hear more of Lynne and Janine’s conversation about Biomimicry, here is a 20-minute video of Pachamama Alliance Earth Day Event: Speaker Highlights

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