Planet in Focus: Second Nature – The Biomimicry Evolution

By Matthew Higginson, LEAF
Read more reviews from the Planet in Focus film festival, sponsored by WWF
Whatever they choose to go by, they are definitely headed on a very old path, leading humanity to new heights of integration and cooperation. Hastrich is here representing Second Nature: The Biomimicry Evolution a doc by Guy Lieberman, which takes a brief dive into the discipline of biologist, author and Time magazine “Hero of the Environment” Janine Benyus and her journey to promote what she calls the circular economy of biomimicry.
So what exactly is biomimicry? Benyus says she had been working with the concept for years when it came time to actually call it something.  And as many biologists are wont to do she looked back to the Greeks, pulling together the roots bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate.  Together they very succinctly form what I see as a natural part of permaculture.  And before you say “oh no he did it again”… permanent culture is about creating a lasting system that we can all live with, benefit from and sustain – a way of living that is more in tune with the natural one that surround us.  Though there is no mention of this connection in the 25 minute piece, the ideas of working with and borrowing from nature rather than taking from and abusing start to make sense from scene to scene.  I like looking at how important these linguistic distinctions can be.  It isn’t just about resources, but as David Suzuki has gone on record stating, “the very life support systems of our planet,” and I encourage all of us to strive to see them that way.

We follow Benyus as she trips across South Africa as she seeks to remember the connectedness our species once shared with the natural environment and reintroduce it to industry.  From a building in Zimbabwe that was modeled after a termite mound so it could regulate its temperature without air conditioning, to self-cleaning cement that was inspired by lotus leaves, we are brought along to share in the joy of finding something we collectively lost.
One of her field guides describes it aptly when he says this is the ideal form of animal testing – one we can all comfortably accept. Nature has perfected these systems over millions of years and with such innovation surrounding us, does it really make sense to reinvent without listening?  Benyus’ message to us is that we’ll do better as a species the more we look to nature as a teacher rather than a warehouse.