Monthly Archives: April 2010

Biologists as New Clergy?

From a Treehugger interview with biologist Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry and founder of the Biomimicry Institute:

“Get outside! We just finished a children’s CD and there’s this great chant: “Get out, get out, get outside, get outside.” And that’s the first thing because we rarely do go outside. is a great way to ask the world for help, but it’s the next best thing from being outside.

So go outside and literally sit under a tree. Look up and say, what is this tree doing that we need to do in our industrial [congregational] world to meet our needs? What you do is you change the lens with which you see that tree. Suddenly you go, Oh, my god! There are solar arrays. And they’re not flat on top of a roof, they’re in vertical arrays. They are tilting as the sun moves across the sky. They are defending themselves against pest. This tree is pumping water hundreds of feet up, but how is it doing it? It’s not really using a pump, it’s actually pulling the water. The roots are exchanging nutrients with the roots of the tree next door.

You just begin to see what has been there all along, but because you’ve seen it as scenery instead of genius you miss it. So it’s literally being that kid again and saying to the tree, “How are you doing what it is that I need to do?” And at that point you need to find biologists that you can work with and have that biologist tell you what he or she knows.

And then the next step is to ask, “how can I get closer to that? How can I be more like that technology in all ways.” Not just in the mechanistic way it works, but the way it works as part of the system. The way the solar cell falls to the ground and builds soil, for goodness sake. That’s the real magic trick. That these technologies individually work so well, but collectively they create condition conducive to life in the habitat.

So it’s both a technical inspiration and an aspirational goal for us and it comes from just recognizing that we’re not the first species to have tried to meet our needs elegantly in a place. Literally, let the entrancement of the last 350 years of western science, where somehow we convinced ourselves that we’re the only one with the answers, let that fall away. And go outside and realize that we’re surrounded by genius. It’s just a recognition of that.”