Biomimicry as a way of being, because it is something that is for everyone and can be applied in our daily lives, can contribute to many of the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in some instances, significantly so.
NO POVERTY – the economy of natural ecosystems is based on localisation (i.e. decentralized production), service delivery and regenerative practices. If we apply these principles and support local, focus more on being than having (i.e. focus less on stuff and more on experiences), create opportunities for everyone to be able to meet their own needs and place a value on regenerative practices, the more we will strengthen the local economy and the more opportunities we create for small businesses to emerge. While in itself this may not end poverty, it will contribute towards doing so.
ZERO HUNGER – this SDG calls for ensuring food security, improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture. Again Nature’s principle of decentralization is important. The more we can localize and decentralize food-growing, the more we can enable people to grow much of their own food. Urban agriculture, where food is grown on rooftops, in basements, up walls, on streets, in our gardens, in community gardens, in parks…this can all contribute to ending hunger and enabling people to meet their own needs. And growing food using principles of Syntropic agriculture, permaculture, agroforestry and forest food gardens will also ensure healthier diets and foods which leads to the next SDG.
GOOD HEALTH & WELLBEING – in addition to healthier nutrition and diets, there are countless studies that prove the health benefits of time spent in Nature and the Reconnect with Nature aspect of biomimicry is particularly relevant. It is something each individual can do for themselves, is something that all schools could incorporate into their daily curriculum, something businesses could build into their employees’ days – just 15 minutes spent daily in Nature is said to have benefits. We know exercise is good for our bodies, and spending quiet time in Nature is good for our souls and our mental wellbeing.
QUALITY EDUCATION – this SDG speaks of ‘lifelong learning opportunities for all’ and this is something that Biomimicry as a Way of Being certainly incorporates. We are surrounded by an estimated 30 to 100 million different species, each of whom have countless lessons to share. Every day, as individuals, we can be learning from Nature, consciously donning the “Learning from lens”, going out into Nature, and discovering something new, enriching our lives in the process.
CLEAN WATER & SANITATION – this SDG speaks about the availability and sustainable management of water…and that really starts with individual behavior. Biomimicry as a way of being can be applied at every level and scale – it starts with the individual, rolls out to a street, a neighbourhood, a community, schools, businesses, a town – and becoming individually conscious of how to manage our own use of water, harvesting, storing, “planting rain”, ensuring what we pour down our drains doesn’t poison or pollute the water, actively helping to clean rivers in our local areas, using the least amount of water to get the job done, learning to truly value water – all of this will contribute towards this SDG. Biomimicry as an approach to innovation is already contributing to this (John Todd’s Eco-machines, Pax Scientific’s Lily Impeller are examples).
AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY – The focus seems to always remain on how we can generate more, but we should be placing equal focus on how we can use less…and learning to tap into freely available energy is going to be key moving forward for us as a species. Passive solar heating and cooling, passive ventilation that reduce the need for electricity but still meet our needs for comfortable temperatures are important approaches. We can also push for localized energy production right down to individual household level. Investigate the use of black piping on your roof for water heating, try out a composting hot water system. All solar, wind and wave generators currently come at a huge cost to the earth – still made from mined minerals, toxic chemicals, seldom recycled, transported halfway around the world – when sometimes all it takes is opening windows instead of switching on an aircon. Of course, biomimicry in the innovation space has and will continue to come up with countless solutions (BioPower’s Wave Energy solutions, Whale-inspired wind turbine blades), but as individuals, we can contribute radically by radically reducing our energy needs.
DECENT WORK & ECONOMIC GROWTH – this SDG has raised concerns in the sustainability arena due to the continued emphasis on economic ‘growth’. As David Attenborough puts it “if you think infinite growth on a finite planet is possible, you’re either insane or an economist”. Nature is all about continual development, continual improvement on a localized scale. Biomimicry as a way of being promotes exactly this, as well as purposeful and meaningful jobs that are contributing to the health of the overall system. 2021 is the start of the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration and the development of economic opportunities with regards to this speaks to a critically important part of what biomimicry as a way of being looks at. As individuals, we can push government at local levels to implement restoration projects.
INDUSTRY, INNOVATION & INFRASTRUCTURE – biomimicry clearly has a lot to contribute in the innovation front and the 2nd article relating to SDGs and biomimicry explores this. How Biomimicry as a Way of Being can contribute to this is to influence the thinking behind what industry and infrastructure is being developed – is it contributing to the overall health of all Life. If it isn’t, we need to seriously question what we are doing.
SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES – biomimicry teaches us to move beyond ‘sustainability’ with its focus on limiting our negative impacts, to that of regenerative living whereby we contribute positively…restoring & replenishing. Nature also has much to teach us about resilience and learning to apply these principles at individual, local and regional scales will contribute significantly to achieving this SDG. Again, how we create sustainable cities is through intention and household by household, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, community by community.
RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION & PRODUCTION –biomimicry moves beyond ‘responsible’ to regenerative and consuming and producing in a way that regenerates and has a positive impact would be the outcome of applying biomimicry principles as a way of life. The more we decentralize and localize, the more we have an immediate connection with what is being produced or grown, the more opportunity we create for less packaging and zero waste (by re-filling, re-using). Harvesting and living off only the rainwater we harvest will automatically make us responsible ‘consumers’ of water. Generating our own electricity will naturally make you more efficient with your energy use.
You can also read more about the RETHINK philisophy here.
CLIMATE ACTION – applying Life’s principles in the way we live our lives will mean that we will be contributing to natural cycles, we will be re-thinking how we get around, will be naturally reducing our carbon footprint and again, the application of the principles will start scale out. Getting more in touch with how much as individuals we are contributing to increased CO2 emissions and then systematically and intentionally working to reduce that, on the one hand, and increase CO2 absorption through planting trees, improving soil health so that as individuals we start to balance out our personal CO2 release and absorption will all contribute. On the innovation front, biomimicry has the potential for significant impacts here, particularly if we start to learn how to use CO2 wisely as a resource, like Blue Planet Cement…but not if we’re going to pave natural areas with cement.
LIFE BELOW WATER – this SDG focuses on ‘conserving and sustainably using the ocean’s resources’ – and as individuals we can all contribute to this goal. If you choose to eat fish, make sure you know how the fish you are eating has been caught. Educate yourself on the different methods and then source fish from people who are doing it right. Conserving the oceans is not likely to be enough – we need to actively restore fish populations and ocean health. As individuals, we can support initiatives that are doing this. We can get involved in projects that call for volunteers. We can put pressure on government to make the necessary changes. We can support more protected areas.
LIFE ON LAND – this SDG speaks about the need to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, combating desertification, reversing land degradation, halting biodiversity loss, supporting sustainably managed forests”. As individuals, start with continually assessing what you really ‘need’ in terms of stuff. Look to reuse wherever you can. Explore ‘junk yards’ and “2nd hand shops” for that which you do need. Start or get involved in local restoration projects – be it your local river, your local park. Create as much space as possible for biodiversity to re-emerge – reassess your gardens….are they a living haven for biodiversity or huge lawn spaces that are often merely green deserts. Educate yourself in terms of what you are eating and what has gone into the production thereof….palm oil and its destruction of orangutan habitats, for example. Support local farmers who welcome visitors onto their properties so you can see how those eggs are being produced for you.
PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS – Life on earth is all about collaboration, partnerships, working together. And the more we start working together, the more we start feeling and seeing the difference we are making. It can start with your family, then move to working with your neighbours, involve a whole street, challenge the next street etc. It also means partnering with Nature….Nature’s ‘technologies’ are by far the best – growing suitable water-based plants to help clean our rivers (while stopping the pollution in the first place). Growing, planting and caring for trees to help absorb CO2. Working with microbes and worms to help build soil.
By Sue Swain
Project additions by The Expedition Project