Learning From Nature/Biomimicry

by | May 20, 2023 | Biomimicry, Gardening, General, Plants

   Peas feel their way through life as they reach for a hold, lash on, and reach onward to the next hold.  What can we learn from them?

   Tropism is the “movement” of plants in a direction due to external stimuli.

   Thigmotropism is the growth of plants stimulated by touch.  When a stem comes into contact with an object (such as a pea tendril and a fence) a hormone becomes activated at the site of contact to slow down growth, while the opposite side of the tendril continues to grow at its regular rate resulting in bending towards or curling around an object.  This action is often correlated with the hormone auxin and phototropism in which auxin moves to the cells of the stem without exposure to sunlight resulting in elongation of those cells, therefore the stem bends towards the light. 

      Metaphorically, tropism in plants can teach us to sense our way through life and encourage us to lean into that which can offer potential support as we establish anchors throughout our growth. 

   This response to environmental stimuli can inspire us in many ways such as in the way that some solar panels are being designed to track the sun’s rays as it moves across the sky.  This is a fabulous example of biomimicry in action inspired by the way sunflowers track the sunlight through phototropism. 

   Fundamentally, this can teach us the importance of tuning into and being responsive to our local environment, leveraging off of cyclic processes, and adapting to changing conditions in nature and in life.  These are considered some of Life’s Principles which are the foundation for biomimicry.

  Biomimicry is about looking closely at nature’s genius and applying it to our lives – the way we think, in our designs, systems and strategies – as we face many of the same challenges that many other organisms (plants & animals) are faced with and are all well adapted at dealing with such as thermoregulation, harnessing energy, attaching, and networking.  Feathers of birds inspire textile materials to mimic feathers in water resistance, softness, and warmth.  Photosynthesis in leaves inspires solar power.  The hook shaped seeds of Burdock inspire Velcro. Mycelium connecting the roots of trees inspire networking in social systems.

   Biomimicry is about emulating nature (mimicking it).  But it is also about realizing that we are deeply connected with nature.  We are part of nature and nature is part of us.  There is no separation.  And when we truly embody this, we naturally lean towards living in a way that allows for other species (some would say, “Our relatives”) to thrive just as we, humans, wish to thrive on the Earth.

   A forest is great example to learn from.  The trees of a forest are very much living in community!  A forest isn’t made up of just 1 or 2 trees, it is a whole network of trees as well as other plants and species that share resources, that depend upon each other, that support one another, that live cohesively within a dynamic balance which creates conditions conducive to life, and making it possible for many life forms to thrive in a given area.

  As we take time to observe and connect with nature, we start to see that nature has many patterns and principles that repeat that we can learn from and apply – we call this Life’s Principles.

   Life’s Principles can be looked at as general guidelines offering advice that suggest certain ways of doing things if you want to be successful on planet earth. 

   After all, life has been evolving on Earth for at least the last 4 billion years.  There are bound to be many organisms that can teach us a thing or two about how to thrive more efficiently, sustainably and more inclusively of the world around us. 

  A wonderful way to deepen your understanding of biomimicry is at Learn Biomimicry where educators and professionals across many disciplines can benefit from collaborative project-based learning while imploring biomimicry principles and methods.

  You can also go to Asknature to find more information on tropism and innovation inspired by plants and many other organisms.