Epochs can last for millions of years and are defined by significant changes in rock layers, such as mineral composition and the appearance of distinctive fossils. Each variation reflects a major climatic change. The last sixty years is often referred to as the Great Acceleration of human impacts which have unfolded at an unprecedented rate and scale. Carbon dioxide emissions, global warming, ocean acidification, habitat destruction, extinction and widescale natural resource extraction are all signs that we have significantly modified our planet.
The Anthropocene is a proposed geological epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems. An epoch indubitably defined by what is to be found by geologists within the strata thousands of years from now — but there is evidence of something else as well. The layers of rock also reveal proof that at this decisive time in the history of humanity we acknowledged the hubris of our dominion over nature and began to find solutions to our decline in the wisdom found in the natural world. The biological design which had been evolving for 3.8 billion years was recognized and utilized for every aspect of human life. Through the use of humility and biomimetics humanity reshaped the world in natures image through the discovery of materials, food, products, infrastructure, even politics — all working within the laws of nature.
Just above the layers of the “Great Acceleration” they will see clear signs of a reversal of the trends started at the onset of humanities discovery of fossil fuel. Visible is a reduction in green house gas emissions and a reversal in sea rise and the consequential salting of wetlands. They will find a stabilization of human population, a reduction in domestic animal agriculture, and an increase in forest and marine ecosystems which had previously been on the brink of collapse. Also absent from the record is any sign of additional isotopes above that found in the nuclear testing era. Clearly humanity had found what was needed for survival — and not a moment too late.
The alternative of what geologists could find is unthinkable.
Mother nature has never filed a single patent. Indeed, the very concept of ownership is both contradictory and detrimental to evolution.
Biomimetics or biomimicry is the emulation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. It is an approach to design and innovation that finds inspiration in the function of living organisms. At its core, biomimetic philosophy is that nature's inhabitants including animals, plants, and microbes have the most experience in solving problems and have already found the most appropriate ways to last on planet Earth. Living beings have adapted to a constantly changing environment during evolution through mutation, recombination, and selection. To not utilize design created by nature is to recreate the wheel.
The idea of connecting biologists, ecologists and other life scientists with designers and product engineers in the design process was introduced by Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry Institute. This design methodology can be applied to the creation of materials, products, and solutions for a wide variety of fields and human systems including biochemistry fluid mechanics, physical chemistry, materials design, architecture, energy, textiles, medicine, transportation, and agriculture.
Nature has gone through evolution over the 3.8 billion years since life is estimated to have appeared on the Earth. It has evolved species with high performance using commonly found materials. Surfaces of solids interact with other surfaces and the environment and derive the properties of materials. Biological materials are highly organized from the molecular to the nano-, micro-, and macroscales, often in a hierarchical manner with intricate nanoarchitecture that ultimately makes up a myriad of different functional elements. Properties of materials and surfaces result from a complex interplay between surface structure and morphology and physical and chemical properties. Many materials, surfaces, and objects in general provide multifunctionality.
Various materials, structures, and devices have been fabricated for commercial interest by engineers, material scientists, chemists, and biologists, and for beauty, structure, and design by artists and architects. Nature has solved engineering problems such as self-healing abilities, environmental exposure tolerance and resistance, hydrophobicity, self-assembly, and harnessing solar energy. Economic impact of bioinspired materials and surfaces is significant, on the order of several hundred billion dollars per year worldwide.
Design anthropology is a form of applied anthropology that makes use of ethnographic methods to develop new products, services, practices, and forms of sociality. Building on a long lineage of thought from the social sciences, design anthropology can trace its roots back to the interdisciplinary field of material culture which brought together history, sociology, psychology, archaeology, and anthropology to understand the creation and consumption of objects, as well as the meaning ascribed to objects.
Sustainable design requires a multi-discipline evaluation of the true human need of the product and consequential environmental affects of mineral extraction and manufacturing. Material culture studies are relevant to design anthropology because physical objects, and increasingly intangible objects, play a role in mediating relationships between humans through time and space. In fact, within material culture studies as well as design anthropology, researchers are more interested in the sociality that surrounds the object such as the behaviors and rituals that the objects create or take part in.