Janine M. Benyus is the author of four books in the life sciences, including Beastly Behaviors: A Watchers Guide to How Animals Act and Why. She is a graduate of Rutgers with degrees in forestry and writing and has lectured widely on science topics. She lives in Stevensville, Montana.
Innovations, whether in farming, composite science, or computing, are a product of human creativity. Science writer Benyus (Beastly Behaviors, LJ 9/1/92) uses these subjects and others to demonstrate how nature's solutions to situations have been the creative jumping-off points for individuals seeking solutions, developing, or simply revitalizing processes or products. The first seven chapters are a prelude to the final chapter, which tackles industrial ecology. Here, Benyus proposes "ten lessons" that an ecologically astute company, culture, or economy could practice to promote a healthier existence for us all. There is no grandstanding, just readable language and a simple awe at human creativity and the uses to which it can be put. For popular science collections.‘Michael D. Cramer, North Carolina Dept. of Environmental Health and Natural Resources Lib., Raleigh
The natural world, says Benyus (Beastly Behaviors), has an enormous amount to teach us, if only we would "tune in"‘as some scientists are beginning to do‘before it's too late. Touring the laboratories of a wide array of researchers, she reports on the emerging race to mimic natural processes (hence "biomimicry") in the business-driven quest for better products, environmentally sound technologies and miracle drugs. The scientists speak with palpable excitement, explaining the principles behind a utopian future of unlimited possibilities: energy harnessed by simple, non-toxic molecules modeled on the principles of photosynthesis, so efficient they put the best solar cells to shame; an organic computer, thousands of times faster and more powerful than the most advanced Pentium, that emulates the principles embodied in DNA; farms with abundant yields requiring virtually no pesticides, fertilizers or "energy inputs," mimicking a natural ecosystem-and more. Benyus's shotgun approach can be disorienting, but the possible breakthroughs, the technologies behind them and the scientists themselves are invariably fascinating. And Benyus's observations are engaging as well, bringing to her tech-oriented subject a non-didactic moral framework and an invigorating sense of wonder: "By deliberately looking for creatures that awe us, we may just stumble upon a whole new chemistry‘the spoils of survival." (June)