Dayna Baumeister, Biomimicry 3.8 - Mentoring, Modeling and Measuring

NOTE: This interview excerpt is transcript only

Photo Credit: Kayak Media

Photo Credit: Kayak Media

“Sustainability is about fitting in and creating conditions conducive to life.”

Dr. Dayna Baumeister is the co-founder of Biomimicry 3.8. With a devotion to applied natural history and a passion for sharing the genius of nature, Dayna has worked in the field of biomimicry with business partner Janine Benyus since 1998, traveling the world as a biomimicry thought leader, business consultant, and educator. Together they founded the Biomimicry Guild consulting practice, the Biomimicry Institute, and most recently, Biomimicry 3.8, which is a B Corp social enterprise that helps clients innovate with nature's inspiration and offers the highest level of biomimicry training to professionals worldwide.


On Leading Transcript

Seana Lowe Steffen, host: If you could change one thing in the world with a snap of your fingers right now, what would you change and why?

Dayna Baumeister, guest: I think I would change our perception that nature is there for our disposal. That it is a resource to be utilized and acquired and disposed of – change that mindset, change where we stand on the ladder. We believe we are superior to the natural world and I would like to flip that upside down and have everybody recognize that we are actually not superior. We are one among thirty million species and our survival depends on how well we take care of this planet. That perception that life is not there for us to use but life is there for us to learn from and we should be incredibly honored that the planet has let us last as long as it has let us last.

Seana: You describe a vision of living without dependency on oil. What else do you envision?

Dayna: One of my favorite visions is a world without mechanical vibrational noise. Vibrational noise is an indication of poor design, of inefficiencies, of archaic models and we're surrounded by it. I think that what we call white noise has a really negative impact on our ability to think, to communicate, to dream, to be creative, not to mention the environmental impacts of all of the wasted energy. So part of my future world is one in which we are achieving everything we need to achieve without oil and without vibrational noise. I think another big piece is in the realm of compassion, empathy, and understanding that not everybody is the same, that everybody shouldn't be the same, and no way of being is superior to any other way of being.

Seana: Thank you. In a past interview, you defined sustainability as, “Our products and processes are well adapted to living on this planet.” Is there anything else you’d like to say about what sustainability means to you?

Dayna: Probably in the simplest form I would say it is fitting in. We’ve chosen a path of fitting upon rather than fitting in. When Darwin said ‘the survival of the fittest’ he didn’t mean the one who is the biggest, the fastest, the strongest but rather those organisms that are most well adapted, those organisms that fit in their environments. To me, the ultimate definition of sustainability is about fitting in and creating conditions conducive to life, not just for our own species and the offspring of our species but all species, and that the offspring of all species can continue on an evolutionary path of survival.

Seana: As you say that I’m curious, how do you think we can teach or train adaptability as a practice in terms of fitting in?

Dayna: I think it’s a great question because I think a lot of it has to do with the sort of mindset perception. One of the things I teach is that the world is in the state of dynamic non-equilibrium. It’s really just a fancy way of saying things change. The way I teach it is that it’s like you’re holding a bowl and the equilibrium will be a spot at the bottom of the bowl where the marble will stop moving. But the thing that is challenging is that the bowl is always moving. Therefore equilibrium is constantly redefined—it is always in a different place. So what fitting in means is that you design yourself round so it doesn’t matter where the equilibrium is at any given time but you will roll to it and you will find it until the bowl shifts again and you’ll roll to it again. And really, that’s what life designs. So human beings are nature and therefore subject to the laws of natural selection. As much as we’d like to pretend that we’re not, we have tried to hold the bowl still. So that holding the bowl still requires an enormous amount of energy, literally, and time and money. The dikes in Amsterdam that keep back the ocean, the big retaining walls around New Orleans, the super-strong structures in San Francisco to withstand earthquakes, they are all systems that say we don’t have to be subject to a rolling bowl. We don’t have to design round, we can just hold that ball still. Then you have something like a major earthquake, or Katrina or sea level change, or whatever it might be that reminds us that we can’t actually hold that bowl still. What we need to do is to ensure that we are adapting.

Seana: What would you say is distinct about what’s needed from leadership at this time in our planet’s history?

Dayna: We need a lot of it. And we need leadership that is based on a model of hope and possibility and connectivity, and not based on a model of scarcity and fear.

Seana: What do those who are working for global sustainability and planetary wellbeing, if they’re to be successful, what do you think that they need?

Dayna: They need to take care of themselves. A really important piece about being successful is taking care of yourself.

Seana: Dayna, above all else what would you have all people understand at this time in our planet’s history?

Dayna: That we’re a very, very, very young species. If you take the planet – all four and a half billion years – and compress it into one year, life has been around for the last ten months. Humans have been around for about five hours. There’s a piece of hope that comes with that because we are very young species. There is so much that we can learn. We have to stop acting like teenagers where we think we know it all, and give our species a chance.


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