http://www.sustainable.doe.gov/articles/bioreal/ -- Lawrence F. London, Jr. mailto:london@sunSITE.unc.edu http://sunSITE.unc.edu/InterGardenTitle: Biorealism: READING NATURE'S BLUEPRINTS
by Robert Frenay, Audubon September-October 1995
"WE NEED A NEW DESIGN." William McDonough's voice carries above the crowded pews of New York City's Cathedral of St. John the Divine. McDonough, an architect, is speaking at the cathedral's centennial. But by design he means something more fundamental than architecture. "We have to recognize that every event and manifestation of nature is design," he says, and that nature is a proven concept, a system that works. McDonough believes there are logical principles in how the earth creates and maintains life, principles that could give new shape and meaning to human endeavor. But first, he says, we must learn to live within the laws of nature, to accept our interdependence "with forces larger than ourselves."
If McDonough sounds like a missionary, it's due to more than the setting. Now dean of architecture at the University of Virginia, he has throughout his career shown a knack for turning up at the heart of visionary projects. In 1986 he steered an eco-renovation of the Environmental Defense Fund's New York City headquarters. He is a central figure in the sustainable-cities movement, and with German colleague Michael Braungart, he wrote the guiding principles for Expo 2000, the green world's fair scheduled for the turn of the century in Germany. But beyond that, he's part of a loosely affiliated group of biologists, chemists, physicists, economists, engineers, designers, city planners, corporate executives, and government officials who in recent years-with no common plan-have found themselves becoming a movement.
That movement stands at the juncture of technology and biology, two fields whose interaction has traditionally meant the conquest of nature. But McDonough and his colleagues aim to redesign human systems, basing them on principles found in nature.
"The first industrial revolution is over," says businessman Paul Hawken, who often works with McDonough. "It's brought us a long way, but its day has passed." Hawken has written a book, The Ecology of Commerce, which serves as a central text for the new movement. In it Hawken explores the question of how, with the continued growth of human populations, we can sustain the natural world that ultimately sustains us. He shows why the industrial revolution's effort to impose on nature the linear thinking of classical physics has reached its limit. With its focus on single cause-and-effect relationships, it's too narrow a view of how the living world works. Ultimately, according to Hawken, the issue is not whether we can save the environment but whether we can save business.
Many of our environmental problems stem from structural flaws in the world's economic system. For example, our current system considers it "realistic" to cut down a century-old tree in Alaska, sell it for the price of a pizza, ship it to Japan, render it into snack-chip bags, then ship the bags back to the United States for sale. Such practices are commonplace, but compared with the resilient, economical systems nature has maintained for billions of years, they are far from realistic.
McDonough and his associates reject the view that there's an intrinsic conflict between a healthy environment and a healthy business climate. Instead, they're calling for a new way of thinking. As they see it, evolution provides the surest guide to what is ultimately realistic. In his 1954 book, Survival by Design, the influential architect Richard Neutra proposed an architecture based on a comprehensive knowledge of biology and behavioral science. An early environmentalist, Neutra came to call his integration of nature and human design "biorealism." Though few of McDonough's colleagues are aware of Neutra's writings, their work is in many ways a realization of his dream. But Neutra was concerned primarily with architecture and city planning. The new biorealists are using nature as a model for reshaping science and industry as well.
In doing so, they are going beyond the old romantic notion of living in tune with nature. With the current explosion in knowledge of how nature actually works, today's biorealists have access to deeper and more precise insights as they design new industrial materials and processes. They have also developed a new vocabulary - with terms like industrial ecology, technical cycles, living machine, dematerialization, throughput, externalization, waste equals food - which helps simplify and clarify the complex ideas involved. Biorealism is a nascent idea, but its potency as a unifying concept, the quality of the minds it attracts, and its potential for reshaping culture suggest that it could become a guiding theme for the next century.
MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM
When a fish swings its tail, it leaves behind a swirl of spinning water. As the tail swings back, it stirs another eddy. Each stroke sends a swirl spinning in the opposite direction. Though that seems a commonplace observation, new research shows that fish use their tails to arrange the swirls in precise patterns, and that this behavior is the key to their exceptional speed and maneuverability. Each swirl reduces drag from the wake even as it provides something for the fish to press its tail against on the return stroke, giving it more power. The developers of that insight, marine engineers Michael and George Triantafyllou, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the City College of New York, have designed a four-foot model "tuna" that wriggles through water with an efficiency approaching that of a living fish. Few propeller craft can equal even half that standard. Given the vast amounts of cargo transported by propeller-driven ships, the Triantafyllou brothers' work could lead to an important new type of propulsion.
"The information of nature is not just beauty," says Tom Eisner, a Cornell University entomologist. "And harvesting the information of nature doesn't have to be as invasive as harvesting the minerals of nature." People tried making gold for centuries, he points out; in fact, chemistry was born through the failure of alchemy. But the new alchemy, as he calls it - which is resynthesizing the chemicals of nature - is generating piles of gold undreamt of by medieval tinkerers.
What is the property, Eisner asks, of the hinge of a fly's wing that allows it to beat hundreds of times per second without breaking? Resilin, the stuff fly and dragonfly hinges are made of, is the most perfect rubber ever found. Or consider spiderwebs: The dragline silk of the golden-silk spider has a tensile strength greater than that of steel, and it can stretch to and rebound from 20 percent beyond its original length. Lynn Jelinski, a biophysicist at Cornell, is exploring how spiders make that silk. She sees a time when genetically altered plants will produce the feed-stock for spiderlike silk to be used in the fabric of sails and even in the construction of bridges. The strength of this research, says Eisner, is that it's "biorational."
German chemist Michael Braungart notes that many of the colors in a bird's feathers, ranging from green to purple, are produced without blue pigment. Rather, the blue that gleams on a jay's wing is created by refractions of light, a result of prismatic structures in the feathers. Blue fabric dyes can be highly toxic, but Braungart believes it will someday be possible to design fabrics and even car finishes colored by optical properties, not by toxic pigments.
At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee, biophysicist Elias Greenbaum and his colleagues have devised practical ways to mimic plant photosynthesis and channel the energy to electrical terminals. Their work opens the door to the development of "biomolecular electronic devices," such as optical sensors, organic solar cells, and computer "biochips." Developments like these suggest powerful reasons for fully understanding such things as dragonflies and blue jays, as well as the diverse habitats that support them. They give scientists like Tom Eisner new ground to stand on when they talk about the need to preserve the "natural library" of information.
The earth is often pictured as a sunlit blue globe, but on the night side it reveals a different face: It crackles with more than 100 lightning flashes per second as it turns through space. Beyond being an arresting display for weather satellites, those bolts of lightning are part of what Robert Socolow calls the grand nutrient cycles of nature.
Socolow, a physicist, heads Princeton University's Center for Energy and Environmental Studies. (He is also a National Audubon Society board member.) His work includes research in concert with Robert Ayres, a professor of environmental economics at INSEAD, the European business institute, and William Schlesinger, a Duke University professor of botany and geology. They are charting the flow of carbon and nitrogen, the two nutrients most critical to life, through natural systems. For instance, each year lightning converts more than 3 million metric tons of atmospheric nitrogen to nitrogen dioxide. Forest fires set by that lightning release additional nitrogen into the sky; decomposing plant and animal matter contributes still more; then rain carries nitrogen back to water and soil, where, after passing through various microbial stages, it's taken up once more by plants and then animals. In the course of this elaborate flow, nitrogen separates and recombines with hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, as virtually all life forms absorb it, then pass it on in altered form.
"Earth knows no desolation," said the poet George Meredith, "She smells regeneration/In the moist breath of decay." Meredith's graceful line points to one of the defining qualities of living systems: their perpetual conversion of energy and material into different forms, with the decay of one organism serving always as a bed from which new life springs. From the global to the microscopic, nature is permeated by cycles within cycles. And as our knowledge of those cycles has grown, it has cast growing doubts on the linear thinking that virtually defines the world economy. Even such recent concepts as cleaner production through cradle-to-grave product analysis come up short. As McDonough often remarks, "It's not cradle to grave, it's cradle to cradle."
Braungart heads a research center in Germany, the Hamburg Environmental Institute, which has designed a small farming system based on several natural cycles that intersect through a connected series of deep ponds. The ponds process local sewage and farm waste by growing aquatic plants and algae. As the plants grow, they draw off excess nutrients from the water, leaving it clean enough to provide habitat for fish. The plants are harvested to provide food for livestock or are used with waste from the livestock as fertilizer for nearby fields. Pigs feed on vegetables and snails that grow at the site; ducks and geese consume the algae and provide nutrients for the fish. Water purified by the process flows back into the local watershed.
Various forms of the German system are being demonstrated in Silva Jardim, Brazil; in China's Zhu River delta, near Hong Kong; in Madras, India, and along the Bay of Bengal; and in Thailand and Vietnam. Similar projects are being developed by research groups in Sweden, Denmark, and Hungary. In the United States, a leader in this field is biologist John Todd, a lifelong proponent of cleaning water through the use of treatment facilities he calls "living machines." These are different from ordinary machines, says Todd, in that "most of the parts inside them are alive."
Coming upon a John Todd waste facility can be a little like stumbling onto some New Age hanging garden. In one treatment plant, in the entrance atrium of a Toronto high school, wastewater moves through a descending spiral of large, translucent cylinders as it passes along a carefully designed food chain that begins with bright-green layers of algae and duckweed, then features higher plants such as bulrushes and, eventually, clear water populated with minnows.
One of Todd's recent projects is the Ocean Arks trailer, an 18-wheel living machine that can be trucked from one site to another. Now parked in San Francisco, it upgrades 50,000 gallons of secondary wastewater each day and dispenses bait fish and striped bass for fisheries. Magical transformations of that kind are routine in nature, and they are now being tried by human designers who have begun to understand, as McDonough puts it, that "waste equals food."
For instance, he and Braungart, with the New York City firm Designtex, have developed a line of compostable upholstery fabrics. Working with European chemical giant Ciba-Geigy, they vetted a list of 300 dyes, using what McDonough terms "knockout criteria": Is it carcinogenic, mutagenic, bioaccumulative? Is it an allergen, an endocrine disrupter? Does it contain heavy metals? The process yielded just 16 acceptable dyes, which Designtex is using to color a wool-and-ramie fabric. When it wears out, McDonough says, you can toss it into the backyard to feed the soil.
However remarkable, these efforts work within longstanding natural cycles, which biorealists see as only half the issue. As Socolow puts it, "We and the plants both speak organic carbon, but only we speak PCBs." Just as there are organic cycles and organic nutrients, says McDonough, we need to start thinking in terms of technical cycles and technical nutrients.
The town of Kalundborg lies on one shore of a deep fjord along the Great Belt, a body of cold salt water that flows through the heart of Denmark to connect the North and Baltic seas. It's a postcard town of 20,000, with a medieval Nordic cathedral and a pedestrian main street of storefronts painted in bright colors - the kind of place where one sees laughing schoolkids whirring by on bicycles.
In 1990 three of those schoolkids got an assignment to prepare an environmental report on the area's industries. They produced a model showing how wastes were being exchanged among several companies- a power plant, an oil refinery; a pharmaceutical plant, and a wallboard manufacturer. In each case, the recipient used the waste as a raw material, uniting the companies through a web of material flows. The students likened the system to the food webs in the natural world. That was news to Kalundborg's business leaders. Their integration of water, energy, and solid waste - their "industrial ecology" - had evolved piecemeal over three decades through informal talks among managers and CEOs who meant only to save a few kroner here and there.
Water drawn from a nearby lake enters the system at one point through the Statoil refinery, which uses it for cooling, then pipes it down the road to the power plant, where it's used as coolant again. The power plant, Asnaesvaerkert, is Denmark's largest and the hub of the interchange. It burns coal to make electricity, but - as is typical of coal-fired plants - it converts into electricity only about a third of the energy released. The rest is thrown off as waste heat, which is then absorbed by the coolant water. The steam produced in that process is pumped through pipelines back to the Statoil refinery as well as to Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company; both use it to drive their internal processes. Another pipeline supplies steam heat to most of the town, eliminating the need for some 3,500 oil-fired furnaces. The power plant also draws salt water from the fjord and, after heating it, feeds it into the 57 ponds of a nearby fish farm. Fish grow more rapidly in the warmed water, enabling the farm to produce 250 tons of sea trout and turbot each year.
Back at Statoil, sulfur is removed from the refinery's waste gas, which was formerly burned off from a tall stack. The purified gas is now used internally; it's also piped as fuel to Gyproc, the wallboard maker, and to the power plant-where it saves some 30,000 tons of coal a year. The sulfur Statoil removes from the gas gets trucked to another company, Kemira, which produces sulfuric acid.
Asnaes, the power plant, cleans sulfur from its emissions with a stack scrubber that converts 90 percent of the sulfur into calcium sulfate, or industrial gypsum. Gyproc buys as much as 85,000 tons of the gypsum each year to make wallboard.
A meandering pipeline runs east for about a mile from Asnaes, like a new shoot from a spider plant. Painted light green to match the roadside shrubs, it delivers the live steam to Novo Nordisk, where the steam is used to make insulin and enzymes. The fermentation vats at Novo also yield 700,000 tons each year of a thin, nitrogen-rich slurry that was once dumped in the fjord but is now piped free to local farmers, who use it as fertilizer. They in turn grow biomass for the fermentation vats. Yeast cake from the vats is used to feed rural Kalundborg's hogs.
Compared with natural systems, industrial ecologies like this still have some distance to go; as Hawken points out, we have yet to design anything even remotely as complex as the interactions in a single cubic foot of rich soil. Still, "the Kalundborg success speaks to the wealth of exchanges that are possible between industries, without design or preplanning," he says. "Imagine what a team of designers could come up with if they were to start from scratch."
In fact, such planning is already under way. In 1992 Socolow chaired an international conference called Industrial Ecology and Global Change, which was documented in a 1994 book of the same name. It was an early session in what has since become a movable feast of conferences and workshops on industrial ecology. As the new thinking paves the way for a shift from "end-of-pipe" pollution control to cleaner processes modeled on nature, industrial-ecologies are being developed in Matamoros, Mexico; Dartmouth, Nova Scotia; Yorkshire, England; Rotterdam; and Tokyo. In the United States, the President's Council on Sustainable Development is working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide guidance and technical support for pilot projects in Chattanooga; Baltimore; Cape Charles, Virginia; and Brownsville, Texas (with Matamoros). Other areas - including Pittsburgh; Seattle; Rochester, New York; and Willapa Bay, Washington - are also working to develop projects.
In Brownsville, EPA-funded consultants are working with local residents and businesses to write a casebook for the development of an industrial ecosystem modeled on Kalundborg's. "I find that communities are very receptive to these concepts," says Ernest Lowe, a member of the team. "Most of this stuff is common sense. It's just that we've been in a departure from common sense for some time."
"Industrial ecosystems are an exciting development," says Don Huisingh, a Dutch environmental engineer and consultant, "but they're no excuse for carelessness about energy and resource use. In walking through a factory, I often identify fifteen problems in the first hour." Picking cherries off the tree, he calls it. But harvesting the low-hanging fruit is just a start.
Since industrial processes so often begin with the depletion of resources and end in the corruption of natural systems, concern about the overall amount of material, labor, and energy used by today's industries, and the waste they produce - their "throughput" - has helped spur a global search for cleaner production methods. McDonough calls this part of the "dematerialization" of industry.
It's an urgent problem. The growth of consumption has begun to slow in the West, but the sheer quantity of products - and the amount of solid waste produced - remain almost beyond comprehension. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, it spewed a 600-million-ton ash cloud that darkened the sun across vast areas of the United States. Within two weeks ash from the blast had spread around the globe. It buried tens of thousands of acres of forest. It destroyed crops, disrupted air travel, buried roads. In Washington State, 900,000 tons of it were removed from highways and airports alone. Yet the United States generates 12 billion tons of solid waste - roughly 20 times the total amount of ash unleashed by Mount St. Helens - every year.
The growth of consumption may be leveling off in the saturated markets of the West, but the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organization - through a series of international treaties aimed at eliminating trade barriers - now seek to extend that unsustainable system throughout the developing world. "In order to give everyone our standard of living, we'd have to increase our throughput by a factor of twenty," says Hawken. "That's impossible."
Huisingh agrees. Last October he hosted a roundtable in Graz, Austria, on cleaner production. It included such nuts-and-bolts workshops as Inventory and Evaluation of Possible Software Applications for Lessons Learned From Defense Organizations. But it also served as a forum on biorealist ideas for hundreds of engineers and consultants from dozens of countries, including a delegation from Kalundborg and representatives from developing and transitional economies such as India, Zambia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.
Cleaner production is a hot topic in the United States, where 3M Corporation is one of the more prominent success stories. During the past 20 years 3M has launched some 4,200 cleaner-production projects company-wide; as a result, it has cut pollutants released into the air, soil, and water by 1.3 billion pounds and realized savings of $750 million.
McDonough applauds such efforts but raises a question. When corporate managers say, We think environmentalism can be good for business because our engineers redesigned our systems and we cut our costs by 30 percent, he asks, Doesn't that indicate that until now there were massive inefficiencies you ignored, despite your obligation to your stockholders, and that you only addressed them because a bunch of environmentalists pushed you into it?
Robert Bringer, staff vice-president of 3M's environmental technology and services, says large companies have had efficiency programs for years, but he acknowledges that "the contribution of the environmental movement is in increased awareness of pollution as a byproduct of inefficiency."
Socolow agrees that cleaning up production lines is an important accomplishment but adds that it's only a first step. "they get awards for being clean," he says, "but the products they make are still not clean." That is, the products themselves are a prime source of the solid waste piling up in landfills and of the toxins disrupting the natural systems that support all life.
Biorealists acknowledge that calculating the real costs of making, using, and disposing of products as they move from "upstream" to "downstream" through their useful lives is one of the more important challenges facing business. One effort to quantify those costs is under way in Germany, where Braungart heads a group called the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency. EPEA does complete toxicological breakdowns of everyday products, noting, for example, that there are more than 4,000 chemicals in a television set and 800 in a videocassette recorder. Many of them emit toxins such as benzene and tuolene vapor when running. Many of the dangerous emissions from appliances are caused by the use of cheap materials in their construction, says Braungart. But if a VCR were disassembled at the end of its life and its materials reused instead of being lost in landfills, safer, more expensive plastics and chemicals could be used with no overall increase in cost.
Braungart's great-grandfather was a cobbler. "They produced shoes that were ugly, and they were very expensive," he says, "but you could throw them away and you could compost them. Today, shoes are relatively nice. They're relatively cheap. But they are hazardous waste. About twenty percent of the world's chromium is used for leather tanning. And chromium is rare. In one kilogram of shoe waste there are about forty grams of chromium." It's foolish, Braungart argues, to use chromium that way when we need it for steel manufacturing. What about plastic soles and sneakers? "We have twenty-six thousand pounds of PVC (polyvinyl chloride, a plastic) being used for shoe soles each year in Germany, and...lead is used as a stabilizer for the PVC." The lead in dust from PVC soles is carried by rain into sewers, which makes it difficult to recycle sewage sludge for agriculture.
"You can use (treatment) plants to take out the lead." Braungart says, "but this is ridiculous - all instead of solving the design problem. Our proposal is simply to create shoes that are nice, that are cheap, and that are environmentally sound. It's a third category of quality. So it's only a quality issue, not a moral challenge."
Light cars use less material and get higher mileage than heavy cars but aren't as safe. Cloth diapers seem preferable to disposables, but the pesticides used on cotton, the constant pickup and delivery involved in using a diaper service, and the cost of washing diapers with detergent make the choice less clear. Unanticipated trade-offs are a natural part of complex systems.
Life Cycle Analysis, or LCA, is an effort to deal with that complexity. It monitors the streams of energy, materials, and information that feed into and emerge from a manufacturing process. What resource does this deplete? it asks. How much does this pollute? What are the health effects? LCA aims to rule out the "externalization" of costs, that view of the bottom line that says killing fish populations with PCBs has nothing to do with the cost of manufacturing widgets.
Volvo, the Swedish carmaker, is currently a leader in LCA. Its Environmental Priorities Strategy, based on the expertise of scientists, engineers, and economists from several industries, rates more than 600 materials by "environmental load units." For instance, according to Sven Ryding, one of the system's designers, it can measure how much energy is used to make a given part from aluminum. It can also distinguish between the environmental costs of smelting that aluminum with coal, oil, or hydroelectric power.
One outcome of life cycle analysis has been a rising interest among manufacturers in designing for disassembly and recycling. Audi, the German automaker, has displayed a prototype for a fully recyclable sports car. It is also joining with Volkswagen and Preussag, the steel company, to set up 80 auto- disassembly plants. Mitsubishi makes washing machines that can be fully disassembled with only a screwdriver. Xerox now recycles nearly 1 million used parts each year, for savings of $200 million. AT&T Bell Labs is using LCA to develop a "green telephone." IBM used LCA in the design of its Personal System/2 computer, which, among other innovations, uses a single, recyclable polymer for all its plastic parts.
Still, McDonough has concerns about much of the recycling now practiced by industry. If the recycled materials are good only for making park benches or packing material, he says, they're still going to end up in a landfill sooner or later -the problem is only being put off. "That's not recycling," he says, but "downcycling."
He would prefer to see 800 numbers on all products. When a television is beyond repair or a synthetic rug wears out, customers would call the manufacturer and the items would be reclaimed, then used to make something else. Pesticides and similar compounds would be tagged with molecular markers so they could be traced and in certain cases recycled. Eventually, McDonough believes, increasing numbers of products will be leased rather than purchased outright.
Within these rude beginnings lie the roots of what McDonough calls the technical cycle, complete with its feedback loops and technical nutrients. Just as nature combines elements such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon to make a cherry blossom or a dragonfly, then reabsorbs them when their lives are done, materials in a fully evolved technical cycle would take specific form only to provide services - a car for transportation, a washing machine for cleaning clothes, a phone for communications - before being absorbed back into the web of material flows.
Changes of the magnitude and complexity indicated by biorealism - which are not only technological and economic but cultural as well - will take time. Large companies project their capital investments over decades. And simple human habit is a powerful force: Many people take pride in doing things as they've always done them, and they will continue that way until change is unavoidable. Hawken quotes a Somali saying: "You can't wake a man who is pretending to be asleep."
Like federal groundskeepers raking and trimming around the capital's cherry trees, Washington lawmakers have - with the best of intentions - restricted the growth of industrial ecology. For instance, antitrust regulations discourage extensive connections between companies. Laws against manufacturing with used parts affect recycling - although those laws exist for good reasons and should be amended only with caution.
"Expectations over the past fifty years have been shaped by an unsustainable structure," says Braden Allenby, a research vice-president in AT&T's technology and environment division. "Many of the disciplines involved in this problem are fundamentally flawed because they were developed in a time of unlimited resources."
Until now, says Allenby, industry has evolved along the lines of a young ecosystem, in which resources exceed demand, making rapid growth common. Simplicity and quantity are guiding principles, and byproducts may be left unused. But the industrial world is now entering a mature phase, and with that the rules of the game are changing. Mature biological systems are dynamic but highly diverse and complex, and they're more stable than younger ones. Resources are no longer plentiful, so the waste-equals-food equation emerges. Quality becomes a more effective survival strategy than sheer numbers.
Of course, there are reasons not to emulate nature in every way. Nature is indifferent to suffering, for example. But in the end, what McDonough, Braungart, Socolow, Eisner, Todd, Hawken, and the others are trying to tell business is relatively simple: Nature is a system that works, and it works by being essentially a closed system.
McDonough tells a story from anthropologist Gregory Bateson about New College, in Oxford, England. The main hall there was built in the early 1600s with oak beams 40 feet long and 2 feet thick. Recently they began to suffer from dry rot, and administrators couldn't find English oaks large enough to replace them. A young faculty member said, "Why don't we ask the college forester if some of the lands given to Oxford might have enough trees to call upon?" They brought in the forester, who said, "We've been wondering when you would ask this question. When the present building was constructed three hundred and fifty years ago, the architects specified that a grove of trees be planted and maintained to replace the beams in the ceiling when they suffered from dry rot." Bateson's comment was, "That's the way to run a culture."
The question facing our culture is, What kind of foundation are we laying for the world of three centuries from today? Hardin Tibbs, a business consultant now living in Australia and one of the first to write about industrial ecology, says, "There are a number of extremely powerful technologies on the horizon - genetics, nanotechnology, parallel computers. The ability to manage and control current practices from an ecological perspective is a window on our ability to handle those more powerful developments in the future."
To anyone concerned about the future of plants, animals, and habitats, the use of nature as a model means new hope. For it suggests a philosophical basis for human endeavor that runs deeper than arguments over exploitation or regulation. It offers a new design, a set of principles from which we may yet raise a greater structure, one that will fit human enterprise to the highly evolved lessons of the natural world.
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