Innovations, whether in farming, composite science, or computing, are a product of human creativity. Science writer Benyus (Beastly Behaviors, LJ 9/1/92) uses these subjects and others to demonstrate how nature's solutions to situations have been the creative jumping-off points for individuals seeking solutions, developing, or simply revitalizing processes or products. The first seven chapters are a prelude to the final chapter, which tackles industrial ecology. Here, Benyus proposes "ten lessons" that an ecologically astute company, culture, or economy could practice to promote a healthier existence for us all. There is no grandstanding, just readable language and a simple awe at human creativity and the uses to which it can be put. For popular science collections.Michael D. Cramer, North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Health and Natural Resources Lib., Raleigh
"Doing it nature's way" is the theme of this wide-eyed-with-wonder exposition of what's going on in a variety of fieldsfrom farming to computer scienceas scientists try to emulate natural processes.
The wonder is abundant as Benyus waxes rhapsodic about the potential for a greening of the globe that could feed the millions, clean the environment, and cure our ills. The name of the game is biomimicry, here defined as a "survival tactic whereby humans try to imitate life's designs and processes, e.g., running a business like a redwood forest." Indeed, that is the theme of one of the last chapters in which the model for conducting business is the mature "Type III" stage of ecological succession embodied by the redwood forest. Nature's operating principles here include using waste as a resource, diversifying and cooperating to fully use the habitat, using energy and materials efficiently and sparingly, not fouling the nest, etc. Translating this into business terms, Benyus describes a number of experiments in process, such as an industrial park in Denmark where waste steam from the power plant is used to power two adjacent companies, heat 3,500 homes, and deliver warm water to fish farms. Elsewhere Benyus's survey ranges over attempts to revolutionize farming away from monocrop and toward prairie-like multicultures; zoopharmacognosy, or observing what sick animals do to cure themselves; synthesizing spider thread or the glue marine mussels use to attach to surfaces under water; and fathoming the mysteries of photosynthesis. In each case this Montana-based nature writer has interviewed the principal players and provided rich detailsparticularly in areas like mussel glue or photosynthesis, where emulating nature is no easy trick. To some extent they provide correctives to the Gaia-like homage to nature that pervades.
Much of interest here, but spare us the cheerleading.