If nonhuman nature could speak with a human voice, she’d sound a lot like Janine Benyus. Of course, human beings are a part of nature, not apart from it, and that has long been Janine’s most essential message. Her work as an ardent naturalist eventually led her to get under nature’s skin sufficiently to ask what is perhaps the most basic question people need to address to live sustainably on the land: What would nature do here? That deceptively simple query resulted in her momentous exploration of an emerging revolutionary approach to science and design chronicled in her landmark book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature.
Janine is an educator and life sciences writer who has degrees in forestry, natural resource management, and English literature. She combines a deep appreciation of science with an abiding love of the natural world. And she is no armchair naturalist: she has written three great regional field guides and a sly animal behavior guide, Beastly Behaviors. She’s been a backpacking guide and is active in protecting wildlands in her home state of Montana.
In the following excerpt from Nature’s Operating Instructions (Sierra Club Books, 2004), Benyus writes about why humans should learn from nature rather than merely about it—taking cues from complex systems that have developed over millions of years and applying these lessons to manmade systems.
Watch a video of Janine Benyus’ 2016 Bioneers keynote at the bottom of this article.
Video - Janine Benyus: Biomimicry as a Cooperative Inquiry - Bioneers 2016 (32 min)