Friday, October 19, 2012

Learning from the Genius of our Place

Ever wonder what ecosystem existed where you live and work prior to settlement? 
Would that influence what plants you select for your landscaping? 
What natural elements you bring into your office? 
How locally-attuned buildings are designed and maintained? 

Learning from the Genius of our Place can help us design our lives and work to fit in with our native natural context using the least amount of energy and resources possible. 

"At the time when the first Europeans entered the Chicago region, the predominant vegetation was a mosaic of prairie, oak woodland, and savanna, with distinctive vegetation on sand dunes adjacent to Lake Michigan. Soils, topography, and firebreaks strongly controlled the vegetation pattern. Before European settlement, fire was a major influence. Every year the copious prairie vegetation dried in late summer, becoming highly flammable, and fires, mostly set by Native Americans either accidentally or purposefully, occurred annually. These fires carried easily through the prairie and burned into adjacent woodlands. As a result, the woodland vegetation was dominated by fire-resistant trees and occurred in areas protected from fire by rougher topography or water bodies—rivers and lakes."

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Monday, October 8, 2012

(re)connecting with the genius of our place

As we enter fall and the relentless heat of this summer has broken, I’m remembering how much fun it is to get outside!  One of the best things I did this summer was go on long bike rides through the prairie – the sights, smells, and sounds of natural environments reconnect me with why I have dedicated my career to creating sustainable environments.  Getting outside allows me the freedom to explore and observe and inspires me to think of new possibilities.

As someone trained in the science (and art) of biomimicry, I have learned to look to natural environments as more than beautiful vistas and peaceful respites.  I’ve learned to look to them as a mentor through which I can learn new ways of thinking about the problems we face.  Through this lens, we can look to leaves as inspiration for more efficient photovoltaic cells, spider silk as inspiration for strong, light-weight materials with benign manufacturing, termite mounds for bioclimactic, adaptive architecture, and our native ecosystems for lessons in creating resilient businesses and communities.  Biomimics across the world are looking to nature for inspiration, harnessing 3.8 billion years of experience, and finding innovative solutions to the problems that we face.  You can do this too.

This fall, go outside as much as you can.  Observe and reconnect with the reasons you chose to work in sustainability, and begin to look to the “genius of our place” as inspiration for new ways of thinking and creating.  From observation comes inspiration and innovation.  The possibilities are endless!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Nature Walk and Biomimicry Seminar

Don't forget to register for Amy and Lindsay's Nature Walk and Biomimicry Seminar this October 20th at Ryerson Woods - an opportunity not to be missed!

Take an inspiring walk at Ryerson Woods during the peak of fall color, guided by a naturalist and two experts on the cutting edge of biomimicry: the emerging science of solving human problems by learning from the way nature works. Learn about the plants and wildlife in this unique nature preserve and the principles underlying these natural systems. Then return to Brushwood for a fascinating, interactive seminar with Amy Coffman Phillips of the B-Collaborative and Lindsay James of Interface, who will teach you how to apply these lessons from nature to a vast array of human problems. From artists to engineers, everyone can benefit from this unique opportunity to gain a new perspective on nature.
This is a Friends of Ryerson Woods (FRW) program.  $15 public, $10 (FRW) members. To register with a membership discount, call 847-968-3321.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Symposia on "Healing Nature"

Amy and Lindsay are attending this amazing event hosted by the Chicago Regional Forum on Ethics and Sustainability- join us?

Healing Nature
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Only $35 including lunch.
The Center for Humans and Nature and the Chicago Botanic Garden present this forum for the Chicago region that continues to focus on the ethical dimensions of conservation issues.
This forum is designed for members, leaders, and volunteers in conservation-minded organizations like Chicago Wilderness. Additionally, members of the public and academics/practitioners with a focus on ethical issues will enjoy engaging with like-minded peers who have the same goal of increasing sustainable impacts on the environment.
Why is nature critical to human well-being? Why is it important that we contribute to the well-being of nature? A robust body of research from across disciplines—including ecopsychology, city planning, landscape design, evolutionary biology, conservation psychology, and the health professions, among many others—points to the physical, social, psychological, and spiritual benefits of interacting with nature. This research also offers insights into encouraging sustainable behaviors. This year's Chicago Regional Forum on Ethics and Sustainability, presented in partnership between the Center for Humans and Nature and the Chicago Botanic Garden, brings together local and national experts to present their perspectives on the relationship between nature and personal and social health. Engage in a discussion about how our current knowledge can inform ethical relationships to a particular area, community goals and policies for shared natural areas, and effective conservation strategies.

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