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123 of 133 found the following review helpful:
Learning from the Genius of Nature Oct 18, 2003
Before even reviewing the book, it seems as though I must explain its raison de'etre; for some negative reviews disclaim the very import of looking to nature as a model for life. For starters, nature runs on sunlight and creates no waste. To me, this alone is reason enough to mimic nature, since our profligate energy use has caused a global eco-crisis. Not only does the combustion of fossil fuels pollute the air breathe (leading to some 3 million deaths from air pollution annually according to the WHO), but it also floods the atmosphere with CO2, leading culprit in the greenhouse effect. Moreover, being that the supply of crude oil is finite, the very foundation of our economy will one day run dry. Nature, on the other hand, runs on the unlimited bounty of sunlight. Unlimited clean energy is just one example of the genius of nature which author Benyus points out in this book.
Nature does many other wonderful things we would do well to learn from. Arctic fish and frogs freeze solid and then spring to life, having protected their organs from ice damage. Black bears hibernate all winter without poisoning themselves on their urea, while their polar cousins stay active with a coat of transparent hollow hairs covering their skins like the panes of a greenhouse. Chameleons and cuttlefish hide without moving, changing the pattern of their skin to instantly blend with their surroundings. Bees, turtles, and birds navigate without maps, while whales and penguins dive without scuba gear. How do they do it? How do dragonflies outmaneuver our best helicopters? How do hummingbirds cross the Gulf of Mexico on less than one tenth of an ounce of fuel? How do ants carry the equivalent of hundreds of pounds in a dead heat through the jungle? How do muscles attach to rock in a wet environment? The answers to these questions may seem like trivia to non-expert, but "The difference between what life needs to do and what we need to do is another one of those boundaries that doesn't exist. Beyond mattes of scale, the differences dissolve."
Like every other creature, humans cause a lot of commotion in the biosphere: creating, moving, and consuming. But our species is the only one that creates more waste than nature can safely and efficiently recycle. Ours is only one that ignores ecological limits, exceeds the carrying capacity of the land, and consumes more energy than nature can provide. The ideology that allowed us to expand beyond our limits was that the world -- never-ending in its bounty -- was put here exclusively for our use. But after the topsoil blows away, the oceans go lifeless, the oil wells go dry, and the air and water we depend on are utterly fouled, what will we do? Will we be able to survive? Unlike the impact of a car, is crisis is cumulative. The mounting effects of this ideology are rising temperatures, decreasing grain yields, rising cancer rates, falling fish harvests, dwindling forests, worsening air pollution, and rising oil and water prices. A most resilient creature, I believe we (or some of us) will survive this ecololgical "bottle-neck" squeeze, to use Harvard scientist E.O. Wilson's phrase. But the questions this book seeks to answer is, can we flourish?
As mentioned by other reviewers, some parts were overly technical. However, much of it is written with the layperson in mind. Moreover, the book is rich in philosophy, like that of Wes Jackson, Bill Mollison, Masanobu Fukuoka, and writers Thomas and Wendell Berry (unrelated). And the main point of the book is simple enough for a child to understand. Does it run on sunlight? Does it use only the energy it needs? Does it fit form to function? Does it recycle everything? Does it reward cooperation? Does it bank on diversity? Does it utilize local expertise? Does it curb excess from within? Does it tap the power of limits? And is it beautiful? In order to right our wasteful and dangerously dysfunctional relationship with nature, these ten questions should serve as guiding principles for design and human interaction.
Although some of the science is now dated (e.g., hydrogen fuel cells are now a reality), this book will remain pregnant with philosophical and practical insights for years to come. It is far, far ahead of the times. My only criticism is that, much of the scientific history and intrastructure this book depends on actually helped create the eco-predicament we currently find ourselves in. The labratories she visits (not to mention the cars she uses to visit them) are not exactly eco-friendly. In other words, the author supposes more technology and "progres" will eventually help us out of this predicament.
This book is a landmark - and one hell of a good read. Dssential for anyone interested business, philosophy, ecology, science or engineering. And when combined with other books, like Lester Brown's ECO-ECONOMY, David Korten's WHEN CORPORATIONS RULE THE WORLD, Paul Hawkins' NATURAL CAPITALSIM, Hildur Jackson and Karen Svensson's ECOVILLAGE LIVING, and perhaps something on eco-education, it would fit well into my dream eco-philosophy course. Unfortunately, I'm not a teacher and very few universities have funding for such programs anyway.
55 of 59 found the following review helpful:
Set cynicism aside, and hope can arise.... Sep 17, 2005
By Kenneth J. Hausle
Let me begin by saying I have a BS in chemical engineering and an MSPH in environmental engineering, so I am not some sort of uneducated, naive, "new-age" dreamer, who has no concept of what is practical and what is not. Morover, I have now worked for over 16 years at various industrial facilities (chemical, textile, and other manufacturing) as a process engineer and an environmental consultant. I've seen what's out there in the industrial landscape.
With that said this is simply the BEST non-fiction book I have ever read. It is chock full of fascinating "earth-friendly" ideas that are simply crying out to be implemented. It is written in a very "personal" tone, which I believe amplifies the book's message. In fact, don't let this tone make you think the book's technical depth is lacking. On the contrary, this book delves into some very complex concepts, but does so in a manner that a non-technical person can follow.
For those areas where I have specific knowledge (such as elements within industry who actually WANT to comply with all environmental requirements and WANT be "GREEN"), the author is on target and displays an excellent grasp of what's going on. Thus, for those ideas and concepts in the book that were new to me, I have no reason to beleive that the same does not hold true.
As long as you are able to set asise the cynicism that seems to have risen to such high levels nowadays, this book will make you THINK about better ways of doing things. Just two simple examples include: (1) Designing a perennial "community" for agriculture mimicking the natural plant community that otherwise would be there, rather than planting a non-diverse, single species, requiring annual reseeding, fertilization, insecticides, herbicides, etc.; and (2) Developing industrial processes that mimic what nature has already evolved over millions of years (i.e. photosynthesis) rather than relying on the old-style of "heat, treat, and beat" to make the various products and materials that we now are so reliant upon.
This books speaks to the incredible and imperative need of the "human species" to transform beyond the ideas of the industrial revolution into an ecologically-appreciative mindset that treasures the planet we ALL live upon. If you want a book that is well-written and full of practical ideas and solutions for the future, I heartily recommend Biomimicry by Janine M. Benyus.
25 of 28 found the following review helpful:
Inspires us to look to nature for solutions to our problems Jul 16, 1999
By James Diamond
Where can we find the best solutions to the many technical, environmental, social and economic problems that beset us?
In this wonderful book Benyus shows us that nature can teach us valuable lessons. "In the 3.8 billion years since the first bacteria, life has learned to fly, circumnavigate the globe, live in the depths of the ocean and atop the highest peaks, craft miracle materials, light up the night, lassoo the sun's energy, and build a self-reflective brain...living things have done everything we want to do, without guzzling fossil fuel, polluting the planet, or mortgaging their future. What better models could there be?"
By adopting a little humility and treating nature as a model, a measure, and a mentor, she argues, we can catch up on the lessons nature has had millions of years to learn. Benyus writes like an angel, her prose conjuring vivid images as she takes us with her on a journey to explore what Biomimics are doing in material science, medicine, computing, energy, agriculture, and business. Her journalistic style does not shrink from the intricacies of photosynthesis and relishes the wonders of mussel tethering techniques, but always keeps the wider picture in view.
I found myself wanting to push the fast-forward button - to the time when prarie-style agriculture is widely adopted; materials are made at room-temperature in life-friendly conditions with no toxicity; and our economy is modelled on a rainforest, not a ragweed. Readers of this book could be those who will help get us there faster. Enjoy!
19 of 22 found the following review helpful:
An important book to read... Nov 26, 1999
This book is a brilliant study of how nature solves complex problems in everyday life and how by observing and mimicking these solutions, we can address core challenges of sustainability. Biomimicry offers a way of thinking that could inspire many of the innovations necessary to become restorative as a society. Fundamental to the message is "shifting the focus from what we can extract from nature to what we can learn from her, thus making the rationale for protecting wild species and their habitats self-evident."
As a reader with a passion for sustainability, but minimal background in biology, I found the content to be clear, accessible and rich with humor. Benyus has a delightful writing style that touched my heart and my mind.
12 of 14 found the following review helpful:
Biomimicry Dec 16, 2002
Biomimicry is an awesome book about how we as humans should mimic nature. In this book the author ( Jannine M. Benyus ) shows the reader how to go about doing everyday things using nature. Jannine answers the questions how will we feed ourselves ?, how will we harness energy ?, how will we make things ?, how will we heal ourselves ?, how will we store what we learn ?, how will we conduct business ?, and where will we go from here?
Biomimicry (from the Greek bios meaning life and mimesis meaning imitation) is the search for innovation inspired by nature. Through out the book Jannine takes the reader into various labs with different specialists and even into her own backyard. She talks with the specialists about how chimps medicate themselves by finding a certain plant, how bivalves called Mytilus edulis can make a polymer that sticks better than any of our adhesives, how spider silk is waterproof and five times stronger than steel, etc. These facts she digs up are amazing. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the human future, in learning how to use nature to build better pharmaceutical drugs, or to anyone who has an interest in nature.
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