Cooperation | learning from nature

Janine Benyus is an American biologist and naturalist, as well as a specialist in biomimetics. One of the questions asked and which appears written on the walls of the Bio Inspiration exhibition in the Science Park of Granada is how we can turn the act of asking nature for advice into a normal practice of our everyday inventions?

This is an important reflection that is particularly relevant in light of the extreme events we have been experiencing recently as a result of global warming and climate change. But the authentic and deep meaning of it is better understood after seeing the exhibition, which will close its doors this Sunday, September 11, to move for a while to another of the three European museums with which it has agreed to share exhibitions; Tekniska Museet Stockholm (Sweden), Techniches Museum Wien (Austria) and DASA (Germany), which deal with issues related to decarbonized mobility; the future of food and, accordingly, of artificial intelligence and big data. A new and innovative way of working as a network, saving costs and efforts, which materializes in a project called “Sustainable Future. Progress, Innovation and Sustainability’.

In a study we did a few years ago relating total greenhouse gas emissions to mortality in the world, we found some interesting situations using the Ehrlich and Holdren Environmental Impact Index formula, which breaks down total emissions into three factors, namely total population, ratio of total emissions to GDP and ratio of GDP to population. Thus, the effects of these emissions were better visualized.

Thus, while the highest percentage of the world’s total gross emissions (51,000 million tons) corresponds to China, with 28%, as the country with the largest population in the world, however, India, which was the second most populous, it only contributed 5.6% of emissions, and the United States of America accounted for 14.46%, despite having the third largest population. The percentages of emissions from Indonesia and Brazil, which have the fourth and fifth largest populations in the world, are minimal (1.3% and 1.4%). Obviously, when we went to the ratio of total emissions to its GDP, we got the point, since the countries that were polluting the most were relatively the least developed. And it was this factor in the formula that had a statistically significant impact on the increase in world mortality.

And just when we thought we’d seen it all, on this new visit we discovered bionic constructs designed with artificial intelligence: systems for harvesting water from the air

But the result that surprised us the most when looking at the coefficients by country was that the largest effects on mortality were seen in the most developed countries. In other words, a kind of boomerang effect was occurring, returning to them, in the form of increased mortality, their largest gross contribution to global pollution.

Relating these results to data provided in more recent studies on the distribution of total emissions by the sectors in which the world’s main economic activities take place, such as manufacturing (cement, steel and plastics), which accounts for 31% of total emissions; consume electricity, 27%; grow plants or animals, 19%; locomotion in vehicles, aircraft, trucks or cargo ships, 16% and heating or cooling, 7%; The question that arises is how to reach zero emissions in these activities? One possible answer is in this exhibition at the Science Park of Granada, which shows us how to do it by learning from nature.

On the first visit we made to it, on the day of its opening, we discovered that nanotechnology and biomedical engineering were applying these techniques. Or that in 1996 the first thermo-regulated building was built in Zimbabwe, which is kept cool without artificial air conditioning thanks to a structure of galleries similar to those of termite nests. But also that in the field of logistics of goods distribution and transport, in addition to the statistical techniques applied in the industry, such as the search of the critical path or those of stocks, many of the solutions found are based on route layouts of ants in search of food. Also, that the engineers who designed the structure of the Eiffel Tower solved the weight distribution problems based on the structure of the femur, the strongest bone of our skeleton. Or that Marc Brunel invented a system of tunneling in unstable terrain, inspired by teredos, molluscs that eat the wood of ships, and thus he bored a tunnel under the River Thames in London in 1843, which is still in exploitation.

And just when we thought we’d seen it all, on this new visit we find bionic constructs designed with artificial intelligence; systems for collecting water from the air, which are applied in the deserts of South America and the Canary Islands; furniture designed with the remains of disused sea nets; floors made of recycled nylon stuck with adhesives inspired by salamander legs; facade shading mechanisms based on the technique used by carnivorous plant lobes; or sunshades made with fractal geometry from the shade of trees, to quote some of the examples that impressed us the most.

As always, Granada Science Park continues to surprise. And above all, to teach its visitors that a better and more sustainable world is possible. My sincerest congratulations to all who, with their work and daily efforts, make this miracle possible, despite the bureaucratic difficulties that some insist on continuing to create for them.

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