It was encouraging to read an article on the BBC about the San Diego Zoo working closely with companies in order to help the natural world facilitate further advances in technology and industry. This is the first zoo in the world to open a ‘Centre for Bioinspiration’ hoping to inspire and aid human problems with the ‘biomimicry’ of nature. It may seem surprising, actually, that this is not already happening, when one thinks of the medicine from the natural world humans have collected and used – the list is limitless. But, with the increasing loss of biodiversity and extinction of species being very real threats, this may provide a learning bridge and also a means to re-discover the necessity of our coexistence.
Currently, butterflies are being studied at the zoo, hoping to inform the new design of the Mirasol e-reader display; the list of what humankind has managed to ‘steal’ from nature is enormous: Velcro, wing design in airplanes and wind turbines and all manner of sustainable environmental structures. The head of this new auspicious collaboration, Larry Stambaugh, has the simple goal of learning from the greatest teacher of all – nature: “The zoo’s scientists and animal care staff will research the biology of plants and animals, and the centre then aims to collaborate with organisations around the world to develop actual products.”
The hope is to also inspire visitors to understand the crucial interconnectivity of all life on this planet, at a time when governments are fighting over carbon emissions and renewable technologies, it’s encouraging to see a ‘back to the drawing board’ mentality in this humble zoo. As Professor George Jeronimidis of the University of Reading said in the article, “Biology has had a much longer time – 3.8 billion years – to address problems, and a lot of the problems are similar to those we face.” It’s nice to think that human beings may now start to listen to nature in helping resolve some of our most pressing issues.