Biomimicry: Mother Nature as a 3D Printer?

Last month, over 350 bio-inspired futurists from all over the world came together to ask how humans can learn from the rest of nature to create conditions conducive to Life. Not just sustainable economies, cities, and production systems, but a fundamentally new way of life that creates abundance, just as coral reefs and rainforests do. Welcome to the first Biomimicry 3.8 Global Conference, at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

bio leafAs I posted last week, the Conference’s opening day focused on “Generous Cities.“ These are urban environments that operate as regenerative ecosystems, actually improving the air, water, and land. On the Conference’s second day, that focus deepened and shifted away from buildings and cities, to the logistics of getting it done. “How would nature actually design the materials we need to build these cities?” Because, “at the end of the day,” said green chemist John C. Warner, “we can only make products that are as sustainable as the building blocks we make them with.”

We humans tend to solve each problem by creating a new polymer or plastic, none of which co-evolved with creatures to eat them. The result is that our “solutions” end up littering the Earth in perpetuity. Alternately, with all the cheap fossilized carbon lying around for us, it’s easy to apply energy to the problem: just plug it in and power it up! Unfortunately, burning yesterday’s carbon is changing the chemistry of our atmosphere faster than its inhabitants can adapt to it.

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