First of all, this was the most exciting nature blog, yet, because it was FINALLY sunny and warm, so I was thrilled to be outside without an umbrella and a hat. Just to top it off, I found an amazing place outdoors within walking distance to my job in Oakland (near the city). The atmosphere was more full of life than it has been in the past month due to the amazing weather. Green was sprouting out of everything it seemed and water was flowing from streams into a large pond.

All of the harmonious designs within my sight seemed to be orchestrated together so perfectly in preparation for growth and production over the summer months. The principles of life were surrounding me and definitely in action – but I’m going to focus on the mallard that was hanging out around the pond.

Design Principle: Optimizing Rather than Maximizing
Example of: Fitting Form to Function

Natural Model: Mallard’s beak

Description: The beak seems smooth and slippery and sleek. It is also narrow and long in order to slip right down into the water to feed on vegetation. They slip their heads into the water and their tails go up on the other side. The beak’s form follows the function of obtaining food in the water. It also fits the way they must chew the food for digestion.

Design Idea in real life: A water faucet that feeds water through a tube and arches over in order to distribute water downwards into your hands. The material is either metal or ceramic and it is round so it can carry water and last a long time without succumbing to rust or other elements of destruction.

Design Principle: Leveraging Interdependence
Example of: Fostering Cooperative Relationships
Natural Model: Female caring for chicks
Description: Little chicks are led to the water by the female mallard. They follow her and learn how to feed and swim and walk like she does. The chicks depend on the mother, but then they will learn and pass along those lessons someday to their own little ones.

Design Idea in real life: Today, there are reciprocate actions to benefit both parties involved. A simple example is buying my organic, local milk at the farm market. I have to buy the milk jug the first time, but then whenever I go back to fill it up, I get a discount on the milk itself, so the seller benefits from repeat customer and I benefit with saving money.

Design Principle: Benign Manufacturing
Example of: Using life-friendly materials
Natural Model: Mallard’s nesting
Description: Nests are made close to the water and are hidden in vegetation (like the bird’s nest in photo below). They are made from available materials that are friendly to living in that circumstance – such as grasses, feathers, leaves, and twigs. These help to blend in to the surroundings for protection (life-friendly) as well as completely recyclable and bio-degradable once the nest is abandoned after the eggs hatch.

Design Idea in real life: In the mountains, many people use logs to build houses and logs to create warmth. Cabins are so common in wooded areas where people want to live “away from it all” and they really do create a more life-friendly environment. The log cabins not only blend in with the surroundings, but they are made from a natural material that is created to withstand the elements of nature and be sturdy for years to come. In addition to that, the same log material harvested from around the house (always careful to plant new trees 🙂 is also used for warmth and energy. Instead of using electricity and gas, logs are burned for warmth in a fire place or camp fire as well as for cooking.

Design Principle: Locally Attuned and Responsive
Example of: Antenna, Signal, and Response
Natural Model: Mallard’s quack, quack 
Description: Mallards signal each other with the characteristic “quack quack” which is only from the females! The males are softer, actually. They use their sounds to get the attention of their ducklings or one another in breeding times.

Design Idea in real life: Traffic lights! Cars cooperate with the light signals on roads/intersections in order to create order on the busy system of transportation. We follow the signs – lights and colors – that communicate directions to us to stop, go, or slow down. This helps everyone to communicate and have cohesive responses that prevent simple accidents and painful collisions.

Design Principle: Integrates Cyclic Processes
Example of: Loops
Natural Model: Mallard’s migration
Description: Mallards migrate from north to the south in the winter. Every year they do this migration and they know exactly where they are going without a GPS! They feed in the south all winter and then when it’s time to breed again, they go back up north.

Design Idea in real life:  Everyday at 9:00pm, my computer backs up my whole hard drive onto the internet storage space that I have designated. This allows a cyclic process of having all of the new data on my computer get copied onto another space creating a peace of mind and a routine that enhances my everyday living. This cycle of computer back-ups is necessary to carry on my work and business life and it saves me time and frustration as it is consistent and reliable.

Design Principle: Resilient
Example of: Redundant
Natural Model: Attack of females
Description: When there are lots of mallards – females in particular – all in one environment, the male mallards will attack the females in order to mate and sometimes kill them. They have to be agressive because there is a redundancy of females – there are “extras” (just like we have two kidneys) and some may be discards (even though that is sad 🙁 in order to continue breeding.

Design Idea in real life: Large semi trucks have double the tires that they need and all of them are running on the road! This is so that when one tire gets worn out and torn and flies off the truck, there is another one there to carry on the load of the truck without any falter (hopefully). It looks redundant at first with all of those tires, but it is in preparation for times ahead.

(Various Mallard information from: and

Here are some more photos from my day that you might get your own ideas of life’s principles!

April 22, 2011

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