Bio-Fanaticism vs. Evolution of BiomimicryPosted: June 10, 2011
Sometimes biomimicry feels a bit cultish.
This may offend some, sound funny to others, or be the reason why certain people may not be interested in this conversation at all.
Anyone who has had their eyes opened to the natural world, especially those who are firmly stuck in the industrial world, is likely to have an extremely inspirational moment. These experiences can be transformational. At biomimicry workshops people find opportunities to connect with one another, becoming honest in ways they had never been before. I have never been at a workshop where I haven’t had an extraordinary, mind bending discussion with someone incredibly inspirational.
And if you are fortunate to have a sit down with Janine Benyus, you will never forget it. It is always an amazing experience.
But I am concerned by the cult effect.
I worry about secular dialects, cliques of true believers and blind faith. Language such as Life’s Principles and “Genius of Place” doesn’t necessarily help, and is often a major deterrent for those more business and financially minded.
I’ve drunk the kool-aid, I moved from sunny Melbourne, Australia to wintery Toronto, Canada and have invested a lot of time in exploring this meme. I have been fortunate enough to count as my mentors and direct sources of inspiration some of the core thought leaders and pioneers of biomimicry, and design thinking. But I have always prided myself (rightly or wrongly) as having one foot in the club and one foot out, enjoying the position of biomimicry pioneer as well as critic. I think this is important for the following reasons:
- If there is no debate, there is no progress. Or if the debate is only by a select few, who then distribute the content to the willing masses, then there is elitism, and leadership worship. Criticism when constructive is healthy.
- If there is only celebration of the tool (or vision), there is no application. I have crossed paths with many people who have adopted biomimicry, only to realize they have spent all their time celebrating a tool rather than working with it.
- If it is not biomimicry, it is not “good”. This logic then implies that anything not biomimicry must be “bad”. This is problematic.
Bio-fanaticism occurs with people who want to use biomimicry, but they don’t know where, or want to celebrate the tool without having used it. This becomes an incredibly unproductive scenario and highlights a disconnect between the vision of biomimicry, and the execution of a specific project. It can also be a dangerous path to extreme frustration, anyone willing to fully commit to change, but powerless to find an opportunity to act is tinder ready to burn. The flip side of bio-fanatics are the scorned disbelievers. Too many of them and the conversation is only a critical exploration, and no longer constructive.
If the dialogue is limited to a celebration of biomimicry, it becomes detrimental the development of the process, tool and strategic vision. I wish to encourage shifting the dialogue from self reflection and celebration of the meme, to one of opportunity, needs and scenarios for action. I hope there are those reading this that feel the same, and look forward to hearing your insights.