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Psychological Biomimicry

The first report I remember giving in school was about clear cutting. Born in Nova Scotia, Canada where this was a common practice, I was horrified why people would cut large swaths of forest. I remember thinking and asking then, “how could they do this?!” 

Unfortunately, this practice is still prevalent, and I’m saddened to think my children themselves may soon give reports on this in school. 

Though I don’t live in Nova Scotia any longer, it’s a place still rooted in my psyche and I keep returning back. I’m grateful to report the clear-cut eyesores of my childhood have grown up in new tree growth. I am amazed to see how the forest has healed and regenerated itself. What was once a denuded landscape is now vibrant again, though nobody would suggest the health of the ecosystem is the same. With the same childlike wonder of long ago, I ask myself now “how can nature do this?!”

From clear cut forests to oil stricken oceans, nature’s capacity for adaptation and resilience, healing and regeneration is truly remarkable. There is a lot in these capacities for humans to learn from and adopt. In fact, there are whole fields of study looking at “biomimicry” or how to apply nature’s principles, processes, designs and systems to solve human problems. This movement was founded and inspired by leaders like Otto Schmitt and Janine Beynus. It’s achieved great acclaim and applicability, ranging from fields like product development and building design to the military and energy. To get a more detailed sense of this, think of designing an airplane based on a bird’s wings or a wetsuit inspired by beavers water repellency. Biomimicry has achieved such success that even Fortune magazine named it one of the top trends to follow in 2017. For all its success and advancement, one critical area has been slow to evolve is psychological biomimicry.

At the EcoPsychology Initiative, we believe one of the best ways to solve our most pressing problems and realize our planetary potential is psychologically applying nature’s core principles. This is why psychological biomimicry is a key part of our core programming. We’ve actually created an ecopsychological tool kit based upon this. It’s comprised of ten principles to guide how best to act, eight internal qualities to cultivate, and six life teachings and lessons to remember. In addition to programming on these specific principles, we’ve also identified and integrated those which are most constructive for healing, regeneration, leadership and resilience. 

If nature’s principles can help us better design wind turbines and bullet trains, imagine what is possible by psychologically applying nature’s tenets to the ways we organize, engage, and lead. Individually and collectively, how we make decisions and design programs, structure organizations and solve systemic problems. Such possibility. 

We live in similar systemic environments to nature-complex, interconnected, uncertain and changing. It’s time we learn from and apply nature’s teachings to how we think, act, feel and relate. What will happen if we do this is beyond even our imaginations. There can be thriving for people and the planet. There’s no time to lose in adopting psychological biomimicry. Each of us can do this on our own by just considering if our decisions and actions are based on core principles we find in the natural world.

While it might be too late for my children to be spared learning about clear cuts and oil spils, I wonder what my grandchildren will give reports on. I hope they will look to these current times as ones where we took disruptions like climate change and pandemics, and used them as catalysts to shift to how they do things. I hope they are proud of the decisions we make. I have no doubt that if they are it will, in part, be because we applied psychological biomimicry, that we realized “Nature Knows The Way”

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