Another direction for sustainability: Gauthier Chapelle went to a seminar on “Biomimicry”

From the 18th to the 22nd of April 2005, Gauthier Chapelle, one of our Scientific Officers, followed for the second time a course about "Biomimicry". This new concept can be best summarised by the words of its creator and speaker at the course Janine Benyus: "innovation inspired by nature" and it could become one of the most powerful tools in shaping a sustainable economy in the coming decades. The course took place in Totnes, Devon (UK) at the Schumacher College, founded in 1991 as an International Centre for Ecological Studies.

Biomimicry is "a new discipline that studies nature's best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. The core idea is that nature, "imaginative" by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on Earth. After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival."

During the course, Janine Benyus has set out in a fascinating way how this approach could bring a real revolution in the way we conduct and organize our economy. Examples ranged from studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell to building ceramics like an abalone, and from devising a new kind of computing based on how enzymes jigsaw together to allow cells to communicate, to running businesses like a rain forest. Biomimicry as a new way of looking at old facts seems so effective that it has been included as the 3rd of the 4 principles of "Natural Capitalism" best-seller from environment gurus Paul Hawken & Amory Lovins. It will doubtless prove to be one of the major principle allowing us to shift away from a fossil fuels dependent economy.

The course was one of the numerous open courses organized each year at the Schumacher College. Beside these, the college also runs, in partnership with the University of Plymouth, the first postgraduate programme in the world to offer an MSc in Holistic Science. It explores new transdisciplinary methodologies that are gaining success in explaining natural systems. These recognise that complex systems have "emergent properties" that describe their characteristics as wholes and that these properties are conditioned, but not determined, by the system's constituent parts. This particular approach has brought to Schumacher speakers as prestigious as James Lovelock, Fritjof Capra, Vandana Shiba, Jane Goodall, Jonathan Porrit or Wangari Maathai.

Gauthier Chapelle also met with Stephan Harding, the MSc coordinator and one of the greatest experts on geophysiology, who has agreed to give scientific advice for the Polaris exhibition center.