Everything I see is infinitely more than meets the eye. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Beauty is not just skin deep. This ideologies run through my mind as I observe the world around me on this wet, spring day. Rather than focusing on the colors, sounds and obvious functions of nature, I find myself asking, “but WHY is it that way?”. Why do the leaves on some trees point up and some droop down? Why do some tree trunks grow straight and tall and others are all bumpy and twisty? Where on earth do all of the animals go and hide during snowy and rainy weather?

I am finding my eyes to wander a bit more slowly around my environment rather than jut around quickly looking for fast observations and visuals. I always felt the inter-connectivity of nature when I was out in it, but feel like I understand it a bit more this time around. I am seeing each individual organism as it’s own “life”. Every thing has it’s own story and it’s own reason for being the way it is. I see the diversity of similar species – no two plant leaves are the same, just as no two thumbprints are alike.

I have been forced to look at nature from a scientific view and from a system-thinking designer’s view at the same time which was a bit out of my comfort zone. I am comfortable in my right-brain zone of seeing, sensing, and feeling, rather than thinking of systems, processes and functions. The beauty of nature in all of it’s peaceful chaos is still evident as it was at the beginning of this course, but being able to understand the cycles and function of organisms gives this world a whole new depth and what it can teach us.

As I was hiking in my special spot, I began to think of Pittsburgh area as a whole and it’s place in the world of environmentalism. Being in Western PA, I have the utter [and very ironic] pleasure of living in the town that spawned Rachel Carson (so proud of that! she’s got two non-profits, a coffee blend, a bridge, a festival, and a 36-mile hiking trail named after her) as well as the town that represents the pinnacle of the industrial era (steel and coal – the likes of industry magnates Carnegie and Frick among others who pretty much ignited the black haze that covered the city for decades).

Rachel Carson has been one of my heroes for her rebellious, earth-loving spirit and obviously THE pioneer of environmental awareness and vocalization against mainstream toxic chemicals (Ahem. Read “Silent Spring“!) In this little corner of the world, she is a symbol of hope amid a history of unparalleled pollution and greedy industry. Pittsburgh has been completely overhauled to where it is today – a bright, clear city comprised of a population with a huge affinity for the outdoors and nature. (2010 World Environment Day was here!) My point in mentioning this is that despite the plethora of horrific facts about how much we are ruining the earth, it is possible to turn things back around. Just look at Pittsburgh’s transformation and look at all of those designers who are stepping out of their comfort zone to mimic nature’s designs and take a closer look at the functions and strategies of things are a daily part of our lives.

Just as a delicate, shiny, green strand can sprout out of lifeless pavement, biomimicry can be a guiding light for sustainable design in our world of unbelievable over-consumption.

(Yeah. Yeah. I did end up getting a bit philosophical, but I was full of greeeeeeen inspiration!)

April 28, 2011

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