Scenarios of Sustainability & Biomimicry

I don't really have a good image to go with this post, so here are some kangaroos.

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

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Biomaterials of the Future

Nanofabricated hairs that self-assemble into different structures on command. From Harvard WYSS Institute

Science fiction may be getting closer to reality in the future of materials.

The WYSS Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard is an interdisciplinary “alliance” between the internally diverse schools of Medicine, Engineering, Arts & Sciences, as well as a broad array of Universities and Research Centres. Their focus is the development of new materials using the deep, micro scale principles of self assembling natural materials, and the vision of their research is pretty wild.

The deceptively simple mission statement of the WYSS Institute reveals incredible goals:

The Wyss Institute aims to discover the engineering principles that Nature uses to build living things, and harnesses these insights to create biologically inspired materials and devices that will revolutionize healthcare and create a more sustainable world… Understanding of how living systems build, recycle, and control is also guiding efforts focused on development of entirely new approaches for constructing buildings, converting energy, controlling manufacturing, and improving our environment.

The self assembled future

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Scenario C: The Grown – A Biomimicry World

Scenarios of Sustainability

Warning: the following will include an excessive use of question marks, as answers are far beyond me in the current scenario.

What if the world of the manufactured became the world of the grown? How literal should this future be?

Image by Steve Kinderman-AP - How comfortable will we be with a fully integrated urban ecology?

Do we want our indoors to be the same as the outdoors? What if hardwood floors and stark white walls were replaced by soft grass and flaking bark? How do we deal with the germ-o-phobia and fear of creepy crawlies inherent in the wild? Predators are a sign of a healthy ecosystem, would a healthy urban ecology be able to support larger predators, when we already struggle with accommodating pigeons and raccoons?

Iā€™m very curious to know if these questions are currently being pursued by the true visionaries of sustainability, biomimicry, ecological design and any other label for innovation inspired by nature. There may well be some of us that wish to return to a life connected to nature and who want to see nature physically integrated into our daily lives. But the vast majority are likely happy with this inclusion being limited to the tame confines of a green wall, internal garden or meditational pond, and would like their desk free of dirt, and with blinds over the windows to prevent glare on their computer screens.

So, then, what IS the vision of a biomimicry future?

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