Most of humanity has lost a vital connection with the natural world – a connection that, from our species’ origins until recently, informed and sustained our participation in nature. The scientific and industrial revolutions brought us almost miraculous technological progress and solved many problems, but they also propagated a mindset where progress meant substituting the old with the new. We came to favor widely-applicable technological solutions over place-based bio-cultural wisdom, and to value short-term gratification over the art of the long view. Eventually we came to think of ourselves and of culture as being somehow separate from or even independent of nature.
We are human beings, who live as part of a planet. It behooves us not to gloss over either of these facts or the relationship between them.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced. Flooding, storm surge, and sea level rise are serious threats to natural resources, infrastructure, and human communities in coastal areas. In effort to adapt to these changing conditions, planners and policymakers should consider nature’s strategies when developing coastal resiliency plans to protect communities from increasing coastal erosion and flooding due to rising sea levels.
Nature is full of clues for how we can approach our climate change problems, in ways that not only reduce our climate impact, but help us to “…become producers of ecosystem services” (Janine Benyus). Biomimicry studies and then translates nature’s architecture, design and engineering strategies to human design. Many of these strategies can apply directly to climate change challenges such as how nature upcycles carbon, harnesses the sun’s power, and creates electricity.
COP21 is focused on developing solid action plans and solutions. In that spirit, we want to share just a few of nature’s strategies and corresponding innovations that can lead us down a more life-sustaining path.
Recently I visited Xunantunich, a site where Mayan ruins are being uncovered in the impoverished nation of Belize, formerly British Honduras. Aside from the sheer beauty and powerful energy of the site, I was struck by a pair of trees our guide pointed out. One was called the Poisonwood Tree, (Metopium brownie) because of the strong allergen in its bark. The other, a reddish tree, which I later found out is called the Gumbo-Limbo tree (Bursera simaruba), contained the antidote.