How Combining Nature and Science Can Determine Humanity’s Future

by Adrian Johansen | Originally published on the Biomimicry Institute

Over the last several decades, the harmful impact of humanity on the natural world has become impossible to ignore. Plastic waste is overwhelming our landfills and oceans, and climate change has led to higher global temperatures, widespread drought, and more scary realities. The wasteful habits of humankind are also impacting the very livelihoods of countless global citizens: overpopulation, extreme poverty, and food insecurity are just a few of society’s ills that can be linked to human behavior, both directly and indirectly.

Interestingly, nature is a crucial part of solving these and similar problems around the world. Advancements in biomimicry and other forms of technology are leading the way toward a more regenerative future, where nature and science work together to help humanity thrive. The concept of biomimicry actually relies on the connections between the natural world and scientific advancements to create conditions conducive for all Life — humans and our fellow planetmates.

With her 1997 book, “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature,” Janine Benyus helped bring the concept of biomimicry into the mainstream. And since that time, biomimicry and its subsequent research have served to fuel various technological advancements, including nootropics (keep reading to learn more). Examples of biomimicry can today be seen all around us, such as within our built environment, as researchers and city planners alike look to nature for inspiration.

Let’s take a look at the myriad applications of biomimicry in the 21st century and how the unique scientific field is a crucial part of boosting quality of life around the world.

Looking to Nature for Inspiration

At its core, biomimicry hinges on the ability of plants and animals to adapt to changes in their environment. By looking at ways that nature solves various challenges, from rising temperatures and habitat degradation to interspecies collaboration and nutrient cycling, researchers in the realm of biomimicry can help bridge the gaps inherent in the human experience. In terms of finding solutions to climate change and inequality that are based on science and technology, biomimicry is thus an invaluable tool for development and growth.

We can learn much about resilience and adapting to one’s environment by observing the natural world. In nearly every natural setting on Earth, examples of adaptability are readily apparent. Take the forests of the U.S. West Coast, for example. Over the last several years, summer wildfires have raged through much of California, Oregon, and the surrounding area. As of October 2020, more than 53,000 people were displaced in California alone as fires reportedly destroyed nearly 4 million acres of land. The very act of displacement can greatly reduce quality of life, and humanitarian aid organizations are often overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the disaster.

But what of the forests themselves? In this case, the old cliche of “destruction breeds creation” applies and is easily observable. Whether intentionally set or accidental, fires help rid the forest floor of debris and underbrush, encouraging new growth, enriching the soil, and increasing the available water supply for the plants that did survive. In the event of a forest fire, plants and animals of all varieties must learn to adapt or flee the affected area altogether if they have any hope of survival.

How Nature, Science, and Technology Coexist

By observing the resilience of nature, and working to replicate those processes that are necessary for adaptation in a drastically altered environment, researchers can find solutions to the myriad issues plaguing humanity. Scientific advancements hold the key to fostering adaptability and greater mental clarity among humans from all walks of life.

The field of nootropics is a notable example of how learning, research, and observation are used for the betterment of humanity. Simply put, nootropics are compounds and supplements designed to boost cognitive performance and brain function. Designed to mimic the neurotransmitters responsible for learning and memory, nootropics can be naturally derived from plants, such as ginseng and ginkgo, or created in a lab.

Improving cognitive performance is the goal of countless citizens around the world, from overworked students to essential workers. And in survival situations, improved memory and cognition may mean the difference between life and death. What’s more, continued research into cognition and the role that nature plays in the creation of memories has wide-reaching implications that may ultimately serve to improve quality of life on a global scale.

Improving Quality of Life in 2021 and Beyond

When measuring quality of life, various factors come into play. According to the World Population Review, “quality of life is the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by a group.” The eight indices that determine a population or country’s quality of life include safety, pollution, climate, and health care access. Social justice also comes into play when determining quality of life, as issues such as overpopulation and the possibility of genetic disorders continue to plague humanity (not to mention our culture’s need to change its way of functioning so that it truly values each human equally — embracing authentic diversity, equity, and inclusion to create real justice).

In nature, having a large number of offspring can be a disadvantage in terms of survival. Nursing mothers are highly vulnerable to predators and need a greater amount of food to stay healthy. When it comes to family planning, animals don’t have much choice in the matter, and life spans may be lower as a result of poor living conditions and/or overpopulation.

Humans have an advantage over animals in this regard, at least in developed countries. Increasingly, ethical family planning has been touted as a solution to numerous ills, from overpopulation to the prevalence of genetic disorders, and it would not exist without research and advancements in technology. Reproductive justice also plays an important role in ensuring that available resources are spread evenly across populations.

Key Takeaways

Within the natural world, hardship early in life typically indicates a reduced lifespan — though when it comes to human lives, that kind of thinking could be considered a gross oversimplification of complex societal and cultural issues. As the number of humans on Earth continues to rise, inequality becomes more and more emphasized between different groups of people, and global warming continues to brew, it’s more important than ever to not only look to the natural world for guidance, but to ensure we’re looking to one another and our varying experiences as humans as well.

What can we as humans learn from the natural cycle of things, even if it means pulling back on our egos to admit we got it wrong? What kind of lessons can we learn about equality, balance, and the abundance of nature simply through observation and asking the right questions, in order to inform our own societal issues? Even more, while advancements in biomimicry can help bring about change, allowing us to solve many global problems and improve quality of life, it’s also important that we don’t focus on just one issue at a time — there’s a myriad of other solutions we could come to if we just stopped and listened, observed, and returned to our roots.

Adrian Johansen loves to learn and share knowledge. You can find more of her writing on twitter and contently.

The Biomimicry Institute empowers people to create nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet. www.biomimicry.org