Biomimicry vs. Biomockery

Permaculture Principles, Illustrated Illustrating Biomimicry

Biomimicry vs. Biomockery

Humans are biological creatures and we do best when we are in alignment with our environments. Ultimately, as noted in an earlier post, this comes down to the question of whether we are creating an egosystem or an ecosystem:

An ego-system is structured to satisfy shareholder wants and to privatize decision-making. Financial capital is valued above other contributions, costs are not fully disclosed and transactions lack transparency.

In the ecosystem, all stakeholders are committed to the shared wellbeing of the community. All forms of capital are valued, all costs are considered and transactions are transparent.

Are we creating and valuing our communities in ways that recognize & emulate the natural rooted patterns of thriving? Or using models that utilize the ‘greenwash‘ model in which the appearance of a commitment to community-focused solutions is used to cover up the fact that the true outcome plays out in an opposite manner to the goal of the announced initiative. In other words, are developers claiming biomimicry when, in truth, they are practicing biomockery?

Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul. The core idea is that nature has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. After billions of years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival. [Source:]

Biomockery, as defined by Talley Summerlin in his Creative Species blog, include innovations based on nature’s lessons and guidance used for ill (i.e. weaponry, poison, habitat destruction, havoc-wreaking, and general death-dealing). While, neighborhood development may not lead to ‘general death-dealing’ on the macro level, the micro effects on the health & sustainability of community do have long-term ripple effects.

As an example, let’s look at what’s happening in Austin:

“Austin’s rise to the top of the list signals the durability of the city’s long-term appeal to investors” [Source: Emerging Trends 2017: Niche Neighborhoods and Economic Diversity Make Austin, Dallas Top Markets]

So, what happens to a city trending to low local ownership of what is likely a resident’s biggest financial investment and is the asset that roots their life here? It brings forward the question of whether money is the most important measure of Austin’s value and, if so, how do we ensure the complexity & diversity needed for a local thriving community when that money is being extracted out of the city as quickly as it arrives? This cannot be created from the outside, it can only be done at the local grassroots level.

At this time, Austin and many other communities, are at risk of losing their identity as a sustainable ecosystems because the perennials–those who hold the history and have contributed both money & much more to the ‘soil’ in which the ‘new’ Austin has grown–are uprooting and finding new places to “get involved, stay curious, mentor others, [be the] passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against [the] growing edge and know how to hustle” [source: Meet the Perennials]

As we reimagine and develop our communities as metabolic ecosystems, we must seek out and encourage the complexity required by that model. It is vital to retain the perennials as they provide the rootstock that feeds the complex biome needed to incubate the next generation, as it is from this, rather than a new seed, that the next year’s flowers and crops (future generations) come.

Using the biomimicry framework, we have a much greater likelihood of developing and sustaining a community that not only reflects our core values, but also has greater resiliency in the face of a rapidly changing world.

Additional Reading:

Trees Prove That Life Isn’t Just About Survival of the Fittest

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

The Forest Unseen by David Haskell

From Tree to Shining Tree, Radiolab Podcast





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