The Weekend Wonk: Janine Benyus and BioMimicry

November 27, 2015

Take a breath. Imagine there really could be solutions.
This video may give you courage and even hope.

7 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Janine Benyus and BioMimicry”

  1. indy222 Says:

    Very very cool – thanks for sharing. Lots of ideas shared in a short time and with compelling visuals and real feeling w/o hype and salesmanship. I’d second Peter’s endorsement – well worth the 21 minutes.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    At first glance, I too thought it was going to be 21 minutes well spent, and it WAS enjoyable. Great visuals, interesting “biomimicry” examples, and Janine is sincere and likable. (And I also found that she has a whole boatload of awards and recognitions). So, I don’t want to be the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but IMO there is something fundamentally wrong with this whole “biomimicry” scheme, and rather than “endorse” it, I think it needs to be dissected..

    What set me back at the outset was the use of the term “BioMimicry”, which is a well-known biological concept whose meaning is nowhere near the interpretation that the “biomimics” place on it here. That set my crap detectors to vibrating, so I set about googling this movement that puts a whole new meaning on “biomimicry”.

    To my astonishment, I found that there is a brave new world out there that I was unaware of—-it is populated by a bunch of people that are bright-siders, wishful thinkers, and seriously out of touch with basic logic, in that they seem rather unaware of how the biosphere developed, and how technology “fits” into the big picture of keeping it healthy.

    They mean well, and some real “solutions” to some problems facing mankind may be found through their work, but BioMimicry appears to be in some respects a scam and job-generating ploy (although not as bad as Solar Roadway), and in other ways some sort of New Age cult that J4Zonian and his fellow bongo-playing meditation buddies on the beach would suck up eagerly. If one wanted to be a cynic, one could say that the name was picked because the average citizen would say to himself, “Oh yeah—biomimicry—I learned about that in 10th grade biology. It’s cool and these folks must be onto something legit”. (Branding and marketing is everythng in today’s world).

    A web search shows that we now have both a BioMimicry Institute in Montana and a BioMimicry Center at Arizona State University, both designed to produce more bimimicry acolytes.

    From the Center:
    ”What does it take to become a full-time, professional biomimic? If you are passionate about the conscious emulation of nature’s genius, and foresee a career in biomimicry through education, training, consulting, and facilitating, then the Biomimicry Professional Certification (BPro) is the path for you.”

    The BPro includes an MS in BioMimicry, and will only cost you ~$45,000+. Or you can start at lower levels of “enlightenment” and pursue a Graduate Certificate in Biomimicry, or Certification as a Biomimicry Specialist, or stop at the MS and forego the six field experiences that account for half the cost of the BPro. These field trips provide what must be wonderful vacations in places like: Montana Coniferous Forest, Montana, US; Sonoran Desert, Arizona, US; Temperate Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada; Tropical Rainforest, Costa Rica; Temperate Deciduous Forest, North Carolina, US; African Savannah, Botswana; Tallgrass Prairie, Kansas; and Mediterranean chaparral, Spain. Needless to say, what can be learned in these places is not likely to provide “solutions” to the technologically-induced disaster we face on the planet.

    Watch this video clip that explains the gamut of “enlightenment opportunities” offered by the Center. I took away two big thoughts—I would not buy a used car from this woman, and, if this is typical, Arizona State doesn’t offer “science” courses as good as my local community college.

    [video src="" /]

    This is getting a bit long, so I will stop here and make a separate comment on the BioMimicry Institute and what I see as the main logic fail behind the whole movement.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    To continue, the BioMimicry Institute seems to be more “legit” in that it is more of a non-profit resource and clearinghouse for biomimics and biomimicry ideas than the Center. Since it emphasizes biomimicry concepts more than how you can be separated from your money by seeking “biomimicry enlightenment”, it is perhaps easier to get to the root logic fails in their literature. Quoted from the Institute website:

    “A sustainable world already exists”.

    “Humans are clever, but without intending to, we have created massive sustainability problems for future generations. Fortunately, solutions to these global challenges are all around us”.

    “Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul”.

    “The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival”.

    (And that is the Omnologos-like fractured logic and wishful thinking that makes me think this whole “biomimicry” movement has elements of scamming and “cultishness”. This “thinking” is reinforced by some quotes from Janine and one other biomimicry “guru” and “consultant”. To wit:)

    “When we look at what is truly sustainable, the only real model that has worked over long periods of time is the natural world.”
    -Janine Benyus

    “You could look at nature as being like a catalog of products, and all of those have benefited from a 3.8 billion year research and development period. And given that level of investment, it makes sense to use it.”
    -Michael Pawlyn

    Is anyone looking at this thread? And is anyone at all interested in pursuing this further? Do I need to point out the logic fails inherent to BioMimicry or are they as apparent to others as they are to me?

    • Please continue. I would certainly enjoy learning your opinion of the short-comings of bio-mimicry.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Bio-mimicry, as far as it goes (or should be taken), is a good idea. We have learned much from nature that we have applied—submarine and airplane design taking clues from fish and birds, and fog catchers from plants, for instance. My main objection is that the concept is too technologically based and a distraction from the real problem (to say nothing of the fact that it is ripe for scam artists to exploit—as in Solar Roadways).

        The natural world took 3.8 billlion years to “develop”, it “worked” until man came on the scene, and what we have done over the past ~200 years with our “societies” and technology is unlike anything the planet has ever seen in all that time. Life on Earth evolved at a rate that is orders of magnitude slower than what we are forcing with AGW, technology, and our explsive population growth and resource depletion.

        These bio-mimicry folks need to look at some truly “scientific thinking” about how humans got to this point and a framework for understanding how we might get out of our dilemma through really paying attention to nature and de-emhasizing technological “fixes”.

        Sharkskin analogue coatings on doorknobs that won’t support bacteria, “structural color” paint on cars, and “self-filling” water bottles are clever, but a waste of energy resources and brainpower. The bio-mimics need to read the works of E.O. Wilson, particularly his thoughts on “consilient thinking” and the evolution of humans and human societies. A look at Arthur Iberall’s “social physics” ideas might also help them see the bigger picture. I have touted the book The End of the Long Summer lately as well. The first half of that book makes clear that we need to look at the Earth as a system, not as a collection of “neat” and “cute” little “tricks” that we can “mimic”.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        PS It’s interesting that you have come along two weeks later and piocked up on this thread. Were you as surprised as I was that this post got almost no play at all here on Crock?

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