Biomimicry and Post-Pandemic Sustainable Development

By Sagar Joshi

Covid-19 better known as Corona Virus has hit the world hard. From businesses, to health sector to even education all are witnessing hardships associated with a pandemic, not to mention the non-essential sector which is the worst hit. In these difficult times, when the economies start to recover and get back on their feet, wouldn’t it make more sense at developing solutions to our problems from tried and tested methods that have been there around us since billions of years? To achieve the end, in this blog I will discuss about the science of mimicking Nature and solutions present in nature all along since billions of years. This science is better known as Biomimicry which comes from ancient Greek words Bio — meaning Life and Mimic — meaning imitation.

Human beings in their quest for development have created massive sustainable challenges for the future generations. Biomimicry is a way to address these problems. It helps in creating policies, processes, and products that are well adapted around us. The plants and animals around us have been there for 3.8 billion years and have engineered and tested these solutions in all this time. And as per the Darwinian Evolutionary Theory, Survival of the Fittest tells us that the solutions (fittest organisms) that worked survived and what did not work ceased to exist. In order to sustainably solve our most pressing needs, biomimicry looks at and imitates the life around us. Let us look at some examples to better understand what biomimicry can help us achieve:

1. Kingfisher inspired Bullet Trains: Japan’s Shinkasen Bullet is the fastest running train in the world, which can achieve up to 200 miles per hour speed. When the train was started in Japan, it had one major problem, whenever the train came out of a tunnel, it caused a change in air pressure, which caused thunderous sounds which were impacting the people living nearby. In a country like Japan which has strict laws around noise pollution, this was a major problem which needed some intervention.

The train’s chief engineer was a bird-watcher and looked towards the nature for solutions. He was inspired by kingfisher’s beak, which allows the bird to dive deep into water with minimal splash and noise. When the idea was finally applied, the trains consumed 15% less electricity and moved at 10% faster speed than before.

2. Wind Turbines modeled after Humpback Whales: The humpback whales display surprising agility in water, which is mainly due to their flippers which have large irregular bumps (better known as tubercules) across their leading edges. Taking inspiration from these flippers, a company called WhalePower has developed turbine blades with similar bumps called tubercules on the leading edges.

These blades provided greater efficiency in many applications from wind turbines to hydroelectric turbines, to ventilation fans, to irrigation pumps. In fact, using these blades to catch wind increased the efficiency by 20%.

There are numerous other examples which prove that mimicking strategies from the nature to solve the human design challenges can help us create solutions that are more sustainable and less harmful for the nature around us. We can use biomimicry to not only learn from nature’s wisdom but also to heal our planet in the process.

School of Policy and Governance, Azim Premji University

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store