Crafting the Ultimate Post-Industrial Design Brief Using Biomimicry

Janine Benyus Paul Hawken at VERGE 2014

By Adiel Gavish

“What the industrial age has done is take life away from the planet and turn it into goods and services,” Paul Hawken stated at the 2014 VERGE Conference in San Francisco this past December. The annual event put on by Joel Makower, a former Biomimicry 3.8 Board Member and brings corporations and entrepreneurs together around the convergence of energy, buildings and transportation technologies which will “…enable radical efficiencies and huge opportunities.”

Mr. Makower interviewed both Janine Benyus and Paul Hawken around the idea of “running the industrial age backwards” and how nature can teach us how to undo the damage caused by unraveling the fabric of Earth’s balanced resources.

According to Paul Hawken the Industrial Age essentially takes “…concentrated materials, primarily from the lithosphere and from the biosphere and disperses them everywhere on the planet: in the oceans, in our atmosphere, in our air, lungs and everywhere else.”

He continued, “What we know from biomimicry, and looking at how life works is that, what nature does is, concentrate … What we’re talking about is technologies that imitate nature in the sense that they re-concentrate what the industrial age dispersed into our water, our soil, etc.,” and in a way that is beneficial to the planet, as opposed to degrading.

Janine explained, “In the natural world, what’s abundant is golden … life is really good at concentrating photons, grabbing fog and humidity out of the air, or collecting phosphor,” for example. Benyus then outlined the ultimate nature-inspired design brief for essentially any product in a post industrial era, in order to undo the damage already caused.

“It has to be made out of local, abundant, non-toxic, raw material,” she said, “cheap, and available everywhere. You’ve got to be able to recruit those materials at the end of their life. It has to be able to be repaired or self-healing, or so ubiquitous that it can be replaced easily … I think it’s very important that it’s built to shape – it can be made on a printing press. And that’s another reason why I’m excited about additive manufacturing and 3-D printing. If we get it right and use truly local, raw materials, we build them to shape. We add structure that we find from the natural world – because that’s what life does with fairly simple, raw materials.