Over the last two weeks we have focused on the incredible work of Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution. At the end of last week’s newsletter, in Green Facts, I linked Oliver’s TED award speech. It is about a 15 minute speech and I have re-linked it here in the hope that I might be able to convince you to listen to just a few minutes. This man has given his mind and heart, let alone finances, for our collective cause—the transformation of the food system in America. Let’s support his efforts.
Here it is: Jamie Oliver’s TED AWARD SPEECH.
In March, we spent four weeks on the phenomenal documentary Food Inc. What Oliver and Foods Inc have in common is education—the urgent need to educate our children, their parents, and of course the policy makers. Our problem is one of ignorance. The kind of educational techniques demonstrated and taught by The Food Revolution and Food Inc. can not help but put a fire in people’s bellies for change. And we need change now.
In the weeks preceding our food focus we were looking at the broader topic of nature, ecosystems, and ecosystem services. This week I want to head back in that direction because I have a wonderful treat to share with you. Thank you for your email responses! I was encouraged by Todd Brooks to take a look at the concept of Biomimicry, and specifically at one of its leading apologists, Janine Benyus. The link to her recent keynote speech opens a new way of thinking how nature and technology can interact. We love technology at BioImmersion and devoted a whole tab to explain how we use it to create forward movement: “Technology allows us to be utilitarian and green, worldy and anchored in our communities” (Dohrea). Listen to a bit of this new and exciting science of biomimicry, I think you will be hooked.
Janine Benyus’s KEYNOTE SPEECH in Seattle, WA May 2009.
Benyus’ claim is that a new paradigm is emerging, and that the scales on our eyes are just beginning to shed. We are beginning to see nature for what it is, what we are in relation to nature, and what nature can be for us.
“Nature is 3.8 billion years of evolution old. Homo sapiens are 200,000 years old. So we are toddlers with matches.”
We must move from how we can use nature to how we can learn from nature—nature as our mentor.
Biomimicry is a young scientific discipline seeking to build artificial systems inspired by biological ones. Biomimicry is a design discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with: energy, food production, climate control, non-toxic chemistry, transportation, packaging and a whole lot more.
In her TED Oxford, UK speech given in July 2009 Benyus says:
We live in a competent Universe. We are a part of a brilliant planet and that we are surrounded by genius. “Biomimicry is a new discipline that tries to learn from their genius and to take design advise from them.”
“What people are beginning to remember is that other organisms are doing things similar to what we need to do. But doing them in a way that allowed them to live gracefully on the planet for 1000s of years.”
In this talk she gives numerous examples of companies that are “nature’s apprentices”—they came to nature to seek a design solution. Their guiding question is how would nature do it.
J.R. West, the company that developed Japan’s famous bullet train, had a design problem. It was called a bullet train because the nose of the train looked like a bullet. Their problem: Every time it went into a tunnel it would build up a pressure wave and then it would create a sonic boom when it exited the tunnel. Looking into nature their lead engineer saw how a kingfisher dove into water at high speed without even creating a wrinkle. It was because of the shape of its nose (the beak). So they built the train’s nose to mimick the shape of the of the kingfisher’s beak—problem solved.
In the manufacturing of cement a ton of CO2 is release into the atmosphere for every ton of cement produced. Kolera, a cement manufacturing company, wanted to address this problem, and sought the answer from nature. Borrowing the recipe used by coral reefs, Kolera now uses CO2 as a building block in cement with a net result of sequestering one half a ton of CO2 for every ton of cement made.
Hospital generated infections are now killing more people each year than AIDS, cancer and auto accidents combined. Sharklet Technologies sought a solution from nature for this problem:
A whale’s skin is easily glommed up with banacles, algae, bacteria and other sea creatures, but sharks stay squeaky clean. Although these parasites an pile onto a shark’s rippled skin too, they can’t take hold and thus simply wash away. The scientists at Sharklet have printed that pattern on an adhesive film that will repel bacteria pathogens from hospital surfaces.
A company that Benyus is involved with addressed the question—How does nature gather the suns energy? They developed a new kind of solar cell based on how a leaf works. It is self assembling. It can be put down on any substrate. It is very inexpensive and recyclable every five years. I wonder if they have gone public yet? Isn’t this the kind of company worthy of our investment dollars? The company name is One Sun.
Janine Benyus is clearly one of the workers for change we can follow with delight. She will be the keynote speaker for the 2010 Salt Lake Sustainable Building conference. Her non profit is the Biomimicry Institute.
And speaking of hospital infection, and therapeutic foods! Our Supernatant Synbiotic Formula was developed to address the mounting problem of life threatening hospital generated infections (nosocomal infections) from organisms such as C. difficele and Staph aureus. Our Bulgarian team of scientists took one year, researching different stains probiotic organisms (lactic acid bacteria) in order to select those with the strongest inhibitory effect on these pathogens. The result of this research was the creation of a formula with 7 lactic acid strains, supernatant (metabolites from selected organisms) and inulin as a prebiotic. This product has proven to be very effective and can be used additionally everyday as a general probiotic supplement.
The Last Quiz Answer: This amazing creature is an Elephant hawk-moth. Moths have unique sub-wavelength structures coating their eyes which dramatically minimize light reflection over a much broader range of wavelengths than conventional anti-reflective coatings. The outer surfaces of moth corneal lenses are covered with a regular pattern of conical protuberances, generally 200-300 nm in height and spacing. These protuberances reduce light reflection by creating a refractive index gradient between the air-lens interface, more gradually transitioning the change in light speed between the air and eye and hence minimizing reflection. These unique structures help moths evade detection by predators in moonlight and maximize light capture for seeing in the dark. Moth-eye inspired antireflective coatings that demonstrate high-performance over large band widths at low fabrication cost have recently been developed for solar panels, with many other potential products applications.
||Ask Nature—“Imagine nature’s most elegant ideas organized by design and engineering function, so you can enter “filter salt from water” and see how mangroves, penguins, and shorebirds desalinate without fossil fuels.”
“Now imagine you can meet the people who have studied these organisms, and together you can create the next great bio-inspired solution.”
“What you’ll see on the site today is a starter culture of ideas—biological blueprints and strategies, bio-inspired products and design sketches, and biomimics you can talk to and collaborate with. Over the next few months, this genetic pool of ideas will grow as we receive natural history information from our partner, Encyclopedia of Life. Our social web will also grow, beginning with tapping into thousands of solution seekers.”
Janine Benyus, Co-Founder/Board Prsident, The Biomimicry Institute.