What would nature do?

From ABC Science Online, 20 May 2010:
It’s a simple question, and one we’re going to be asking ourselves more and more over the coming years. Why? Because that simple question is going to save the planet.
Humanity has made spectacular technological progress over the last couple of centuries. We are healthier, wealthier, more mobile, better educated, more interconnected and more comfortable than ever before thanks to innovations ranging from cars to computers and MRIs to mobile phones. But there’s one field in which we still perform abysmally —resource efficiency.
We waste an appalling amount of resources such as oil, energy and fresh water. Our cars waste around 85 per cent of the energy put into them, transmission losses from the power grid are as high as 10 per cent and our industrial processes generate huge amounts of waste such as pollution and heat. After more than two centuries of rampant, unsustainable resource consumption, we are now facing the very real possibility that some of those resources are going to run out, or at least become prohibitively expensive to extract.
The solutions are to be found in the same place we plunder. Nature has been playing the sustainability game for around 3.8 billion years, and has become extremely good at it. The natural world is balanced, efficient, resilient and responsive. It has to be because, as Charles Darwin so elegantly explained, only the fittest — those best suited to their environment — survive to pass on their genetic material.
A creature that lives beyond its means, that is dependent on resources transported from far away, that relies on combustion for energy, that discards much of what it uses and which pollutes its environment can hardly be described as well suited to the environment.
In contrast, in the natural environment, nothing is wasted. It’s a closed-loop system where the outputs of one process eventually become the inputs of other processes. Nature uses only what it needs, and recycles everything.
And so, as we stare down the barrel of dwindling resources, an increasingly polluted environment and climate change, many are looking to Nature for inspiration. Read more.

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