Biomimicry and Geomimicry[1]

If we wish to make peace with nature and survive in harmony with her for the longer term, we need to get out of our houses and study her wondrous ways.

As Aristotle [2] said "If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is nature's way".

One person throwing pollutants away makes little difference. There are just under 7 billion doing it however and the planet has a bad case of indigestion. There is no such place as "away." The natural capital of the planet supports us - not the other way around. We need to understand the diet of the planet and take more care about our releases to the global commons.

Policies that foster the development of processes and technologies that allow material and energy flows to more closely mimic flows in natural ecosystems and that maintain the natural homeostasis of these flows on the planet as a whole are required. We must recover our historic reference and connection with the planet and in our surreal techno-world and this is hard to do. Our air conditioned homes and offices leave nature outside and we have been lulled by such comfortable "civilised" surroundings that all is well. It is not.

The moleconomics of the planet are out of balance and homeostasis must be restored. Nature is a living library of wisdom and we must learn how to repair the damage we have done by connecting and learning.

The Business Case for Biomimicry-Geomimicry

Nature is the greatest economist of all, wasting little energy or matter and an overriding principle that must be considered in all our restorative actions is that of biomimicry-geomimicry. Besides, wasting less and being more efficient saves money increasing profit at the bottom line.

According to Lester R Brown[3]"Restructuring the global economy according to the principles of ecology represents the greatest investment opportunity in history. In scale, the Environmental Revolution is comparable to the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions that preceded it.

The Environmental Revolution resembles the Industrial Revolution in that each is dependent on the shift to a new energy source. And like both earlier revolutions, the Environmental Revolution will affect the entire world.

There are differences in scale, timing, and origin among the three revolutions. Unlike the first two, the Environmental Revolution must be compressed into a matter of decades for long term survival. The other revolutions were driven by new discoveries, by advances in technology, whereas this revolution, while it will be facilitated by new technologies, is being driven by our need to make peace with nature.

There has not been an investment situation like this before. The $1.7 trillion that the world spends now each year on oil, the leading source of energy, provides some insight into how much it could spend on energy in the eco-economy. One difference between the investments in fossil fuels and those in wind power, solar cells, and geothermal energy is that the latter are not depletable.

For developing countries dependent on imported oil, new, non fossil fuel energy sources promise to free up capital for investment in them as one characteristic of non fossil fuel energy is that it is ubiquitous and does not have to be imported by those many countries that do not have the resource. To these countries, in terms of economic expansion and job generation, these new energy technologies are a godsend. Investments in energy efficiency will grow rapidly simply because it is profitable. In virtually all countries, saved energy is the cheapest source of new energy.

No sector of the global economy will be untouched by the Environmental Revolution. In this new economy, some companies will be winners and some will be losers. Those who participate in building the new economy will be the winners. Those that cling to the past risk becoming part of it.


In modern times it is often said that "mother nature knows best".

This truism, which has been around since time immemorial was recently incorporated in the term biomimicry first popularised by the book of the same name written by Janine Benyus[4]. who explains biomimicry as a method of solving problems that uses natural processes and systems as a source of knowledge and inspiration. It involves nature as model, measure and mentor. In nature photosynthesis balances respiration and recycling is the norm. By studying Nature "we learn who we are, what we are and how we are to be.”[5]

The theory behind biomimicry is that natural processes and systems have evolved over several billion years through a process of research and development commonly referred to as evolution. A reoccurring theme in natural systems is the cyclical flow of matter in such a way that there is no waste of matter and very little of energy. As the waste from one plant or animal is the food or home for another nature is the most frugal economist of all. There is a strong need for similar efficiency and balance in our techno-process.


The concept of biomimicry can also be extended to geological processes and our managing director, John Harrison has coined the word geomimicry to describe technologies that mimic long term geological processes

Examples of Biomimicry and Geomimicry

Mimicking the Jackdoor

As peak oil looms and the price of transport is set to rise sharply, we should not just be recycling based on chemical property requiring transport to large sophisticated and expensive centralised facilities, we should be including wastes based on physical properties as well as chemical composition in composites whereby they become local resources. The Jackdaw recycles all sorts of things it finds nearby based on physical property. The bird is not concerned about chemical composition and the nest it makes could be described as a composite material. TecEco cements are benign binders that can incorporate all sort of wastes without reaction problems. We can do the same as the Jackdoor.

Utilising Carbon and Wastes

During earth's geological history large tonnages of carbon were put away as limestone and other carbonates and as coal and petroleum by the activity of plants and animals.

In Eco-Cement concretes the binder is mostly magnesium carbonate and the aggregates are preferably wastes. Sequestering carbon in magnesium binders and aggregates in the built environment is biomimetric in that carbon is used in the homes or skeletal structures of most plants and animals and geomimetric because this is the way most excesses of carbon dioxide have been sequestered in the past.

Limestone Cliffs, Seashells and Seawater at Clifton in Tasmania

Carbonate sediments such as the cliffs behind John Harrison in the picture represent billions of years of sequestration and cover 7% of the crust. With 1.2-3 grams of magnesium and about .4 grams of calcium in every litre of seawater, there is enough magnesium with replenishment to last billions of years at current needs for sequestration.

To survive we must build our homes like these seashells using CO2 and alkali metal cations.

The connection between geological process and life is well described by the Gaia hypothesis, these days more commonly referred to by scientists as Earth system science which treats the entire Earth as a system in its own right, which evolves as a result of positive and negative feedback between constituent systems. The systems approach, has developed significantly as a science with the use of computer models as hypotheses that are then tested by global satellite and ship-board data and is increasingly giving scientists the ability to explain the past and possible future behaviour of Earth systems.

Complex computer models which seek to explain or predict several different parts of the total Earth system and the interactions between them are known as Earth system models. Many are based on Global climate models and include sub models for the ocean, atmosphere, biosphere and other parts of the earth system. These interactions are of particular importance when trying to understand changes over decade to centuries and longer periods.

The world's carbon cycle is out of balance because the waste of fossil fuel burning (CO2) is not being utilised as a fuel/food for other processes. The guiding principles for technological change should be geomimicry and biomimicry and a much better understanding or Earth system science. New technical paradigms that redefine wastes as resources working together in tececologies are required. TecEco plan to use carbon and other wastes to create the built environment and doing so would provide significant sequestration. The use of wastes not just for their chemical property but for their physical properties as aggregates in composites results in them increasing in value and no longer being wastes.

Economic technical paradigms for tececologies that mimic nature by consuming wastes including carbon dioxide have not been commercialised and TecEco and allied companies/organisations have formed the Global Sustainability Alliance to address this issue with new technologies including Greensols, TecEco Eco-Cements, algal and the hydroxide carbonate slurry CO2 capture process and the TecEco Tec-Kiln. More about geomimicry with TecEco cements.

printer friendly

[1] Benyus, J. M. (1997). Biomimicry, Innovation Inspired by Nature, Harper Collins Books.

[2] Wright, F.L. (1957) Truth Against The World, a compilation of speeches by Mr. Wright, New York: A Wiley-interscience Publication