There's no better designer than nature. Janine Benyus said it best at TED when she said, "We're surrounded by genius."
The natural world is a beautiful system of overlapping design. Everything from the rain falling from the sky to the worms digging in the dirt to the animals that awake from long hibernations to the feathers on the bird that flies back north after a winter in the tropics all flow together in chaotic harmony. Everything works together, even when eating one another. Evolution is just a long iterative series of design modifications that is ever-striving to produce the best model for the current time and situation.
We can learn a lot from nature. Biomimicry is the art of taking design cues from nature and applying them to things like solar panels, buildings, cars, wind turbine blades and waterproof rain coats.
Janine Benyus gave an amazing presentation at TED about a very simple question every designer should ask before creating something: How does nature solve this?
By starting with that question, designers have been able to push technology to places it's never been before — bullet trains that go faster using less energy, antibacterial coatings for hospitals that don't create superbugs, and building exteriors that will be able to collect water from the fog.
A cement company looked at how coral reefs use CO2 as a building component and are working on a cement that, instead of releasing large amounts of the greenhouse gas as conventional cements do (in the manufacturing process), actually sequesters the gas into its structure.
I'm really excited about the potential for biomimicry-driven advances in renewable energy. If you think about it, a forest is just a big solar farm. Trees use the sun's energy to live and grow. What can we learn from how they do it? We've just begun to scratch the surface of what's possible with clean tech. It will be the natural world that provides the direction for many of the technologies that will make this world a liveable place for our grandchildren.
There are so many cool ways people are learning from nature's genius design. Take 18 minutes and watch this video. It's pretty amazing.