By: Janine M. Benyus
''1. Nature as model: Biomimicry is a new science that studies nature's models and then imitates or takes inspiration from these designs and processes to solve human problems, e.g., a solar cell inspired by a leaf.
2. Nature as measure: Biomimicry uses an ecological standard to judge the "rightness" of our innovations. After 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature has learned: What works. What is appropriate. What lasts.
3. Nature as mentor. Biomimicry is a new way of viewing and valuing nature. It introduces an era based not on what we can extract from the natural world, but on what we can learn from it.''
How will we feed ourselves
"How do we act on the fact that we are more ignorant than knowledgeable? Embrace the arrangements that have shaken down in the long evolutionary process and try to mimic them, ever mindful that human cleverness must remain subordinate to nature's wisdom." - Wes Jackson, director of the Land Institute as quoted in the beginning of the chapter.
This is basically what is spoken about in the first chapter Benyus observes the way a prairie is able to sustain all of it's plant growth. In the wild there are no uses of chemical pesticides, or petroleum based fertilizers. This is mainly due to the variety of plants that are grown together. There is a reason that in nature one single plant does not dominate over a whole field and it has more to due with the survival of each species than simple the fact that nature has to store all of it's diversity somewhere (since it insists on having diversity in the first place).
One of the reasons is actually natural pest control. When there is a variety of plants in an area no one pest predominates, and there is a balance of insects to plants. Some insects also are useful, in the spreading of pollen and their consumption of other insects. When there is a large field of one specific type of plant the pest that usually preys on it will also rise, because there is an abundance of food there for it to feed itself and it's family. Unfortunately as we all know our pesticides are not so efficient as we might think. "Since 1945, pesticide use has risen 3,300 percent but overall crop loss to pest has not gone down. In fact, despite our pounding the Us with 2.2 billion pounds of pesticides annually, crop losses have increased 20 percent. In the meantime more than 5,000 pests have developed resistance to our most powerful chemicals."(pg18)
Root Structures/ Annual Plants vs. Perennial Plants
Just like we have our very complicated ecosystem so does the ground. Each and every plants roots also plays a part in allowing nutrients to flow and be absorbed by them. There is an "intricate architecture... it leaves air channels like veins throughout the soil, giving water a way to sink down deep." Now aside from providing nutrients to flow all throughout this net of roots, it also is what holds the topsoil down and floods at bay since most of the water is able to be absorbed into the earth. This topsoil is actually what holds all the organic matter and is what we would be referring to when we call an area fertile. By planting annual plants and plowing the fields every year we are disrupting the topsoil and basically drying it out allowing the air and wind to blow it away. "the 1930's disaster of deep drought and relentless winds called the Dust Bowl. It got so bad our topsoil started showing up on decks of ships a hundred miles off the coast of the Atlantic" There have been some movements to pay farmers to conserve their soil. The Conservation Reserve Program was begun1985 and paid farmers an average of $48 an acre to plant perennials. 63 percent of farmers said that they would plow up thiner CRP land if the money wwas to stop, of course they are now just planting grass, if they were to plant profitable perennials like what the land institute is working on...
Farming like a Prarie The Land Institutes mission statement
The Land Institute has been hard at work to find more ecological ways to farm. They base their ideals on a prairie. They are trying to reintroduce perennial crops, by hybridizing our annual ones with perennials. By doing this they are not plowing their fields all the time, in turn they treat thier plants "as if they are neighbors in a community" However they are doing extensive research also in the area as to which plants should be planted close together to have optimum interaction between them. A benefit of this is that plants don't need to be competing with their neighbors. This is all great when dealing on the small scale but if you are farming acres and your farm is you work can this set-up be profitable? So they set up the Sunshine Farm. "It's goal is to calculate the amount of productive capacity a sustainable farm must devote to its own fuel and fertility."
For me the most important observation made in this chapter was that we treat farming as a factory and that is one of the main reasons for all of this catastrophe. It is interesting to not, on a more optimistic level that we are seeing more interest in the way our food is made. Organic foods and CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) are gaining allot of interest. (http://www.justfood.org/csa/) Another fun fact is that most farmers have second and third jobs because farming is not that profitable, especially since they have so many expenses.