Lessons in Biomimicry - Part 2 Natural Systems

Biomimicry Coasteering photo

Image courtesy of Paul Villecourt - http://paul.villecourt.com/photos

Last week I reported direct from Schumacher College in Devon, where I was attending a course entitled Biomimicry: New Directions in Sustainable Design. The first part of the programme discussed natural forms using examples such as the Eden Project. Today I continue with part 2 of Michael Pawlyn's course examining natural systems and tomorrow you can read the final part in this series which looks at natural processes.

Biomimicry as the study of natural systems can help design and architecture work more effectively, but it can also work on social development and business structures. The image above was taken on a coasteering holiday run by TYF in Wales. The founder of TYF, Andy Middleton, explained why it was fundamental to engage people in nature in order to help them connect with the environment. He also described his intriguing theory of 'winkle thinking'...Winkle Thinking
Middelton uses biomimicry in his safety instructions for participants on his coastal aventures. This behavioural instruction is called 'winkle thinking' because instead of warning people of all the dangers, he just asks people to imitate certain sea life when in the water to keep safe. So when in rushing water act like kelp or seaweed, stay floppy so you don't injure yourself. When in crashing waves cling to the rocks like a winkle does. When in open water behave like a fish, smooth and streamlined, to make the most of your energy.

Desirable Messages
As an expert facilitator Middleton managed our group throughout the week with a natural, effortless ease. He demonstrated the importance and value of communication and asked us to look at how nature sends messages. His great example was the blackbird plucking the reward of the ripe blackberry, the seed automatically goes along for the ride eventually being processed and disseminated, therefore achieving the plant's aim of reproduction. This simple illustration shows how crucial it is for environmentalists to create messages that are desirable, fresh and convenient and therefore accessible to a wide audience.

Flow chart of Able project image

From Cardboard to Caviar
Michael Pawlyn in his presentation related natural systems to business structures and used the fascinating example of the Able Project in the UK. Nicknamed 'From Cardboard to Caviar' this project was started by Graham Wiles in Yorkshire as a work rehabilitation project for recovering heroine addicts, engaging them in natural systems. The flow chart above shows how an amazing production chain has been set up starting with recycling cardboard and ending up with producing caviar - talk about upcycling!

Waste as Nutrient
The project takes cardboard from restaurants and shops, shreds it and sells is as horse bedding. When the horse bedding needs replacing it is picked up and composted in a worm farm. The compost goes onto plant beds and the extra worms are fed to the fish farm where sturgeon are bred and caviar is produced. The caviar is then sold back to the restaurants where the cardboard was collected in the first place. This is an incredible example of how waste can be used as food, just as waste in nature is always a nutrient and ends up in a cradle to cradle cycle.

Social and Economic Rehabilitation
The ingenious biomimetic thinking of Graham Wiles and the Green Business Network has created an amazing business and social rehabilitation venture. At every turn and at every challenge they looked at what nature would do and found a way to close the loop. In addition to this they provided employment and skills training for disadvantaged people in a poor area of the country and created valuable products which could be used by many different industries.

Raking leaves at Schumacher College photo

Doing the gardening at Schumacher College involved raking fallen autumn leaves and putting them on the compost pile, turning nature's waste into nutrients.
Schumacher College
Exploration Architecture
Able Project
More on Schumacher College:
Biomimicry Course: Learn About The Amazing Potential of Design
Schumacher College Connects Sustainability and Business Leadership

350: Bill McKibben Inspires UK Audience to Join His Campaign
More on Biomimicry:
Better By Design: A Guidebook to Biomimicry in Product Design
TreeHugger Picks: Biomimicry in Product Design
Biomimicry Lectures: Janine Benyus Down Under

Lessons in Biomimicry - Part 2 Natural Systems
Last week I reported direct from Schumacher College in Devon, where I was attending a course entitled Biomimicry: New Directions in Sustainable Design. The first part of the

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