Scenarios of Sustainability & BiomimicryPosted: August 18, 2011
Ok wonderful people out there, I need some input. I’m framing a discussion around scenarios of sustainability and the deeper I get into the issues of design, the further I get from inspiration from nature. It may be because I am in a process of trying to over simplify things and might not be seeing the wood for the trees, so I’m looking for some feedback.
Scenarios of Sustainability:
I want to qualify that my statements below are my first attempt at articulating what the scenarios of sustainability are from a product design perspective. I’m not sure all my generalizations below will stand up to Architectural investigation (yet), and am well aware that there are huge issues (social sustainability, cultural diversity) that are not being tackled (yet).
Scenario A: We stop consuming
- Mass culling (reduced production) of things that are not “critical”
- Repair / extend the life of what we already have
- Could happen selectively – human choice / motivation
- Could be enforced – through context; cost restrictions, material shortages etc…
Scenario B: Consuming becomes “sustainable”
- What we throw out is biodegradable (at the same speed as production/consumption)
- The lifespan of use matches the lifespan of the products (or cost of new production is more expensive than further extraction of raw materials
- Biological nutrient cycles
- “bio-degradable” materials – recycled through the earth
- Technical nutrient cycles
- “up-cycling” – repair – reuse
How do we feel about that?
Is that an over-simplification or am I getting close to reducing things down to their bare simplicity? Obviously there are huge conversations that run parallel to the statements above. In our current obsession of worldwide debt issues any conversation about reduced consumption that might slow economic growth is a little taboo, but perhaps it is a nice time to point out that the current system doesn’t work.
Help me biomimicry, you’re our only hope
I’m having a hard time trying to find really clear stories from biology that create positive entry points into the above concepts. Because let’s be honest, the above challenges are scary, daunting, and incredibly unsexy.
Are there good examples of biology that speak to up-cycling, or repairing? How can we discuss reduced consumption without using doomsday rhetoric? I need more than the obvious case studies – oak trees producing abundant acorns to nourish an ecosystem is not enough.
Translated questions of biology:
- When does nature “up-cycle”?
- How does bio-degradability “work” in natural materials? – I know it is usually triggered through context, are there good examples of this?
- Does nature curb consumption? My understanding is that biology is very bad at preventing over consumption of resources, therefore triggering collapsing populations…
- Are there good parallels for “repairing” in nature, without anthropomorphizing biology?
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts out there…