“So let me begin by saying that I think we are nature. I don’t think that any of our technologies are unnatural, I think that the tram I came on today, B52 bombers, the chairs you are sitting on, this technology, I think it is all nature, because we are biological beings and we created it. As a biologist, the question for me is not whether our technology is natural, but how well adapted it is to life on earth over the long term. And as designers, I think we are realising that perhaps our designs are not that well adapted yet. We’re a young species at this point in our evolution; other species have been here before. It is the point at which you try to match yourself to the context, to the conditions that are out there. And you put out an artefact, just like a robin’s nest is an artefact, and the context decides yes or no, well adapted or not well adapted. And in the same way I think that our artefacts will be judged by natural selection. The question for the robin’s nest and the question for our buildings and our artefacts is the same, the question is, “How will the chicks fare here? “
For us to become better adapted, quickly, will I think take help. What the world needs now, in addition to love, is some great ideas, and luckily we are surrounded by genius. When I walked over here today, I was surrounded by the flow of this city, and I was surrounded by another city, another flow: a vital city in which this one is embedded. I thought about miles up in an air column, above us, I thought about the organisms like aerial plankton. These organisms, insects, mites, ballooning spiders, fungal spores, bacteria: millions of organisms, hundreds of thousands of these species in this air column, in this aerial plankton, some of them never come down. And I thought about the column of the soil beneath us, in which there are bacteria making soil, making fertility, crumb by crumb.
There is more biomass beneath us, we think now, than there is on the surface. That world, that flow, is full of organisms doing the same things we are doing, all facing the same design challenges. Put yourself inside one of those systems and pretend that you’re walking or swimming through it. Thousands of chemicals are being made, and none of them are interfering with the ozone, water is being pumped, water is being purified, miracle materials are being made, lightweight materials, using local, abundant raw materials. Homes are being produced, and young are being cared for. The same design challenges that we have are happening there; these are industrial zones to me. What is different is that there is not a part of that place that is unsightly, there is not a bad part of town here. And when you walk through these places, you don’t need to wear a hardhat, ear protection, or eye protection. To me, this is proof that a carbon-based life form can live on this earth for a very long time and get its needs met, and get the needs of its offspring met, and take care of the place that takes care of its offspring. Without destroying it, actually enhancing that place. And that is a great relief to me.
And it is also a relief to know that it’s not just a few species, there are thirty million survivors, one percent of all the species that have even been on earth, are here today. And they are the survivors. And we are learning a lot about them.”