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Renowned author in Whistler to discuss Biomimicry


Feb. 19 presentation part of sustainable speaker series

Art is not the only thing that imitates life. A solar panel imitates the activity of a leaf. A computer chip works like a cell. Synthetic clothing materials imitate wool, down and skin.

If the foundation of these technologies has its roots in nature, so may the answer to a question that has been hanging over our heads for the past several decades: "How can we live on this home planet without destroying it?"

The concept of using nature and natural systems as a template and framework for the next phase in our development is called Biomimicry. Nature is imaginative by necessity, and has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants and microbes are consummate engineers, and over the past 3.8 billion years of evolution they have already found what works, what is appropriate, and what lasts.

In her latest of six books, renowned author Janine Benyus explains Biomimicry, and its potential to help us become environmentally sustainable. She will be in Whistler on Feb. 19 as part of the Leadership Through Sustainable Innovation series sponsored by Whistler’s Early Adopters of The Natural Step Framework.

She is the fourth speaker in the series, which will wrap up on March 12 with a presentation by Dr. Karl-Henrik Robert, the Swedish oncologist who developed The Natural Step.

According the Biomimicry Web site at , "demands for products and services will not disappear… The challenge is to find a means to meet the needs of humans while simultaneously ensuring our well being and our long-term sustainability within the context of our natural system."

For example, nature provides us with a wide variety of materials that are superior to any we’ve come up with. Abalones manufacture a kind of shell which is stronger than ceramics. Spider silk is pliable, but five times stronger than steel.

Finding ways to duplicate these natural, and sustainable, products could meet human demands while cutting down our dependence on synthetic and non-renewable materials. The study of plants, animals and insects has already yielded life-saving medical technology.

The presentation on biomimicry is free to the public, and will also feature a nature slide show featuring the work of local photographers.

A sustainability open house will be held at Maurice Young Millennium Place from 6:15 to 7 p.m., and Benyus’s presentation will start at 7 p.m.

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