Home > Uncategorized > Earth Day and Bio-mimicry

Earth Day and Bio-mimicry

If you asked the average american what they know of kelp, what do you think their response would be? A blank stare perhaps? At best you might see them make the mental jump to seaweed and then a recommendation to their favorite sushi restaurant. Certainly it can be assumed that the vast majority wouldn’t have the slightest idea of the significance of this aquatic plant. To an Australian energy company however, the bull kelp is no less than an inspiration.  

“Bull kelp, named for its bullwhip shape, is one of the strongest and most flexible seaweeds in the world and can grow up to 100 feet from its holdfast (similar to roots) on the sea floor to the tips of its leaves” says Rachel Kaufman in an article recently released in National Geographic. Even more impressive is the movement of the kelps leaves as they photosynthesize sunlight. Teams of engineers are currently searching for an efficient way to emulate this motion and produce clean energy that can be used to sustain  civilizations around the world. 

There is a common conception that advancements in modern technology are taking us further and further from nature. As today is Earth day and the torrential rain scared supporters away from Kogan Plaza, I was left to my own reflections on the intersections of nature and our everyday life in 2012. I cannot help but wonder: are we not arrogant in assuming that we, human beings who have been on this Earth for only a minute fraction of it’s immense history and existence, are the sole possessors of solutions to the energy crisis? My research led me to this article in National Geographic, based off of a photography contest. It discusses the possibilities of bio-mimicry, a field that is increasingly popular with engineers today. 

Contrary to popular belief, all of our technological progress may in fact be leading us back to nature. This cycle presents so many interesting questions, particularly concerning our actions with regards to the green movement that has infiltrated the news, politics, and even civic engagement over the past few decades. For so long technological innovation has been at odds with the natural world; polluting and destroying the limited resources that are left to us. In an effort to find more harmonious solutions for sustainable living, it only makes sense that engineers find inspiration in natural forms. After all, over the course of 3.8 billions years of evolution, nature has found some of the most beautifully simple solutions to the struggles we grapple with today. 

That being the case, we must turn our attention to our treatment of these resources if we are ever to unlock the solutions they might provide. Our own resources, including time and money, are also limited, and we must determine how they can be best allocated; often the choice lies between preservation and progress. There are also people to feed, shelter, and international conflicts to be resolved. What do you all think? Where do our priorities lie within the next few years? 

Here is the link to the article! Let me know what you all think! http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2012/04/pictures/120419-biomimicry-for-energy/ Image

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Ben Harrison
    April 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    It is an interesting thing to think about: as a species we have, historically, tried to become independent from nature. We created machines to do a job more efficiently, grow fish in fisheries, and such, but now we are coming back to nature. In my opinion, this shows our arrogance as a species. We came into this world and thought we could improve upon it, but our short time here is nothing compared to the billions of years nature has had to evolve. Now we are realising that for us to advance, we have to go back to our roots.

    The Earth was in perfect equilibrium with nature, and when we intervened, we threw that equilibrium off. Now that we realise it, we are hurrying to correct what we have done. Using the sun and wind to power our electronics, and planting trees in an attempt to compensate for the greenhouse gasses that we have been pumping out since the time of the industrial revolution.

    Within the next few years, I expect new technologies will try to be as “green” as possible. It’s what’s “in” now. I think that beyond that, we are going to use nature to drive our technologies. I remember seeing a show on the Discovery Channel about how we are studying geckos and how they climb surfaces. I’m not sure what the outcome of all this will be, but it will be interesting to find out.

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