Plants are at the base of the trophic chain. Our existence depends on them. Without photosynthesis, for instance, we would not have the oxygen that makes animal life possible. They are also the origin of energy sources (fossil fuels) and are, at the same time, fundamental raw materials (as Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola point out in Brilliant Green: The Surprising History and Science of Plant Intelligence). Taking it to the extreme, the plants can live without us (for millions of years it was like this), but we would extinguish without them.
To what degree are we aware of this? Do we take any profit from observing nature? With what intensity do we connect with natural life, vegetal, animal or human? When doing so, can we perceive the diversity? Do we activate our senses? Do we capture the whole sense of what it is to live? Do we observe how each species behaves? Do we draw lessons to apply to our lives?
Many questions. And many more that we still do not know. Nature, as a whole, already has the answers, waiting for someone to find them. The evolution of life has been progressing for millions of years, and species have spent that time adapting to a changing environment. And if they did not do it, nowadays would be extinct. Nature, therefore, has already learned to solve its problems, and we can learn from that.
Much of this knowledge is often seen as anecdotal, without thinking that humans are also the protagonists. We all know that from the many hominids that have existed the only survivor is the Homo Sapiens, although with a 5% of Neanderthal inheritance. We need to shake awareness and not self-deception about how we approach Nature. Let’s face it, how often do we think of plants, forests or animals needs, whatever they may be? They try to communicate with us but, as if they spoke another foreign language, we can hardly understand them. But we did not even try to do it.
What is the nature of its language? What do they say? How do they tell us? We know little or nothing, even though when we discover some singularity of Nature, we are marveled. We have to recognize that we live disconnected from Nature. Shouldn’t, therefore, ask ourselves why do we know so little?
When we talk about nature, it is obvious that, although we understand it we do not comprehend it. Whether animals or plants, we try to grow closer to them, but it is obvious that they do not use reason’s language. Our senses let us communicate with them better, through smell, colors, functions, behaviors, vital patterns…
Let’s take a look at how children approach to nature: almost like it is a game or a companion to play with. But, at the same time, how many of us do not know how to talk to children? Do they respond to logical discourse or, instead, to senses and feelings? As Pascal, the great mathematician, said: “the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.”
How can we learn from nature, then? Just living. And this is a wisdom that only people from rural areas possess, a wisdom that urban ecosystems yet have to learn.
Janine Benyus rightly explains: “Biomimicry Revolution introduces an era based not on what we can extract from nature, but on what we can learn from her”. We have to allow nature inside of ourselves, letting the signals it emits captivate all of our senses. Live the symbiosis of body and mind with harmony, and regulate it with senses and emotions.
A second approach is reversed. Yes, living with and from nature can help to find the solutions that await our questions, but we must first learn to formulate them. Without them, we can not find the answers or even recognize them. In any case, we need to ask ourselves: what would nature do? It is necessary to maintain a continuous connection of nature towards oneself and, at the same time, of us towards nature. We can not (and should not) disconnect from nature. Many have found the creativity that we were seeking in a natural environment, where what seems complicated suddenly is clear, lucid, intense.
These are the relationships that biomimetics invites us to discover. But to be aware it is necessary having some preconditions. To put it another way, if we used to say that "if I can not touch it, I will not believe it", it is now the other way around: "if you do not believe it, you will not see it".
Nature gives us answers: but first you have to learn to ask questions.
The biomimetic thinking is growing and growing. An example is what Futurism shared on its Facebook page, explaining how, thanks to the observation and study of nature, engineers found a way to purify water using natural ingredients from the soya plant. A quick and cheap way to give drinking water to countries without many resources. It is a new biomimetics victory that shows us that it is more intelligent not to underestimate natural ingenuity.
Now that summer is coming, an so it comes relax and free time, it is a good opportunity to get rid of the excuses (as is the lack of time) and start exercising the observation of nature and its strategies to fight against adversity. Nature is a great teacher and the contemporary humans cannot delay more its natural reconnection.
President of the Biomimetics Sciences Institute.
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