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Outdoor Economy

Scientific Discoveries and Inventions Inspired by Nature

There are amazing products, systems, and technologies that have been invented as a result of studying nature.  We learn a tremendous amount from observing the natural world and understanding how it works. These designs have been echoed in many different ways.  Here are just a few products that have come from nature’s design.  

King Fisher 800px-Shinkansen

The Bullet Train

The Japanese Bullet train takes its design from the beak of the King Fisher and the plummage of the owl.  It makes it one of the fastest, most efficient passenger trains in the world.  This same inspiration is being used in various aircraft as well.

800px-CornishMussels

Mullusc superglue

So if mussels and acorn barnacles can attach to to the side of rocks and concrete pilings and be able to withstand powerful tidal flows and waves of salt water, why can’t we make a glue that can do the same?  Well that is just what scientist are doing now. They are trying to figure out the chemical structure of the that  extremely powerful mullusc glue to use for practical human applications.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bur_Macro_BlackBg.jpg

Velcro

 

Velcro

In 1948 a Swiss electrical engineer named George de Mestral came up with the idea for velcro  when he was hunting in the Alps and began to examine the burrs sticking to his clothes from burdock.  He noticed the hundreds of hooks  when he examined the burrs under a microscope.  After several years of trial and error, he managed to come up with the design we know today and commercialize it.

 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Uspn

gecko

Gecko Tape

Manchester University Scientists came up with the design by studying the feet of Geckos. The tiny hair-like structures called setae allow the lizards to climb walls and ceilings. The tape uses the same type of hairs and has become a popular alternative to adhesive

 

 

 

 

 

Big-eared-townsend-fledermaus

 

 

Bat Sonar Navigation inspires new products for the blind

By studying how bats communicate, scientists and inventors are creating new products for the blind including canes and sunglasses that communicate the distance to the user.  These new fascinating tools will revolutionize how the blind interpret their surroundings and may open new opportunities for  other inventions and drone robots in the future.        

We still have a lot to learn from nature.

What other inventions can we come up with from studying the genius of nature’s design?

Also View:

Nature Inspired Inventions and Engineering for Aviation

Top Scientist Engineers and Entrepreneurs Look to Nature for Inspiration and Guidance 

 


How to Tap into the Genius of Nature and Science to Create a Sustainable Future

This was one of the most inspirational TED talks that I have watched on nature and innovation.

Michael Pawlyn starts off by pointing out that a spider can make a material stronger than Kevlar using dead flies and water at ambient temperature and a wood beetle can detect fire 10 times farther away than any device designed by man without having to be attached to any power grid burning fossil fuels.

The talk goes on to show some amazing architectural design used for the Eden Project in England that was inspired by pollen grains. When finished, the structure was lighter than the air inside of it.

A visit to the Eden project is on my bucket list.

The main points of his talk are that we can approach the journey to a more sustainable future by learning from the genius of nature that exists all around us.

We can dramatically improve our use of resources by examining ancient systems that nature has developed over eons. Nature reuses and recycles every resource with incredibly efficient use of energy.

He goes on to illustrate some examples of groups that are mimicking nature’s methods to create closed loop systems from caviar, to worms, to horse manure, to sturgeons, and back to caviar.

He touches on reversing desertification by taking notes from the Nambian fog-basking beetle. There is also a segment that shows how to use sea water for irrigation and the leftover minerals as building materials.

There is a great point made that shows the sun gives us 10,000 times more energy than is used by all forms, so our energy solutions are just a challenge of engineering .

There were no pauses, “Ums”, “hems” or “haws” in his entire talk, and unlike many talks about sustainability which tend to be all gloom and doom, this was uplifting, positive and inspiring.

I first watched it a couple of years ago. Now the number of views has several more commas.

Michael Pawlyn Genius Design


How Learning About The Natural Environment Can Boost Tourism

Tour Hydrangeasoperators that have learned to provide quality outdoor education opportunities are creating a win-win-win situation.

They are providing a positive learning environment for their guests and are attracting families.

They are creating family bonding experiences where both adults and children are having fun learning together and spending time being active outdoors.

They are creating more satisfied customers who will help to spread the news about the operation and the influence that it has had on them.

They are increasing their occupancy and creating a competitive advantage over other similar operations.

They are creating more responsible citizens that will have a ripple effect on the long-term outcomes of the area.

They can attract school, church and other student groups who enjoy the who are looking for the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while they learn about the environment.

Creating the right programs that will attract these families takes some research and talented staff.

Successful strategies for developing environmental education program can be learned by others who have spent years developing and refining their programs and are now reaping the benefits.

There are several keys to developing an environmental education program for your guests:

Do Your Research

Get a good understanding of the most successful programs that others in your field have offered to get an idea of what people are looking for and responding to.

Take inventory of your environment and assets

Think about what you can realisticly offer your guests. Sometimes it is just about adding an education component to what you already have.

Analyze from your client’s perspective

Consider the logistics of how your guests will participate taking into account transportation, space and sitting room.

Think about what you will need to purchase in order to run the program.

It may be a good idea to consider building a dedicated interpretive center and central place for promoting and booking.

Hire the right people

Your staff will be critical to the success of your program. Make sure you do a thorough vetting process to make sure your staff  has both the knowledge and personal skills to educate and entertain while being patient and professional. Personal skills and professionalism are most important.

Knowledge can be gained through training. The right staff will increase their knowledge for themselves overtime.

Leave a comment with your questions if you are interested in providing environmental education opportunities for your guests.

If you already run or are involved in successful environmental education, please add your expertise so as to help others who are creating their own.

If you are interested in providing environmental education programs for your guests. Please leave a comment or contact me.

 


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Environmental Education: Benefits to the Economy & Human Health

outdoor environmental educationWhat do Ben Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, Beethoven, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Mozart, John Frost, Henry David Thoroeu, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Isaac Newton, Galileo, Albert Einstien, Carl Linnaeus, Copernicus, The Wright Brothers, Charles Darwin, Vincent Van Gough, and many other great men and women of art and science have in common?

They were all influenced by nature and created some of their greatest accomplishments by observing it and learning from it.

As our plugged-in lifestyles cause us to spend less and less time outdoors, what is being lost as we become more and more disconnected with the outside world?

The sedentary lifestyle spent in front of screens has led to a dramatic increase in obesity and other health related issues.

The resources below show how Environmental Education can help both children and the economy.

Why Environmental Education is Important
[ForestFoundation.org]

Today we are seeing a drastic change as people spend more time indoors in-front of screens and less time exploring the world around them. This generation has been growing up indoors and disconnected.

According a worldwide study in 2005, %53 of children expressed feelings of fear about natural processes such as rain, wind and snow.

This movement indoors is not benign; there are costs to the health of our children: attention difficulties, hyperactivity, childhood obesity, diminished use of senses, disconnect from things that are real.

Additionally, if children are detached from nature, how will they learn about, understand, and value nature? How will the next generation care about the land and be stewards of its resources?

What is the cost to society?

Cost of Obesity:
[GetAmericaFit.org]

According to a study of national costs attributed to both overweight
(BMI 25–29.9) and obesity (BMI greater than 30), medical expenses
accounted for 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures in 1998
and may have reached as high as $78.5 billion ($92.6 billion in 2002 dollars)(Finkelstein, Fiebelkorn, and Wang, 2003).

Approximately half of these costs were paid by Medicaid and Medicare.

Cost of ADHD
[Center for Disease Control & Prevention]

Rising hyperactivity and and attention deficit causes significant burden on the medical and healthcare system. The cost of ADHD is estimated to be between $36 and $52 billion, and is estimated to be between $12,005 and $17,458 annually per individual.

This does not mention the stress on parents, teachers, and the students own self esteem and achievement

Cost of Disconnection to Nature
[Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching]

53% of children in a worldwide study expressed feelings of fear about natural processes such as rain, wind and snow. Schoolyard design also reflects a lack of understanding of how quality outdoor play environments can provide children rich educational opportunities, particularly in the area of social skills and environmental learning (Evan 1997)

Environmental Education can be a solution to these issues.
[Campaign for Environmental Literacy]

Environmental education increases student engagement, improves academic achievement in core areas, reduces discipline and classroom management problems, increases enthusiasm for learning, creates greater student pride and ownership in accomplishments, and provides critical tools for 21st century workforce.

This has been proven to be true for students with and without learning disabilities.

Children and families with opportunities to play outside in natural areas and explore their environment have been found to develop a deeper sense of place and understanding of who and what they are.

Families that understand the benefits of outdoor play are looking for ways to allow their children time outside in a safe learning environment.

Now that we know environmental education can directly and indirectly add social and economical value, how do we go about implementing strategies to ensure that our communities have access?

What is Environmental Education?

image of environmental educationThere are various opinions on how to define environmental education.

The following are a few examples:

“Environmental education is aimed at producing a citizenry that is knowledgeable concerning the biophysical environment and its associated problems, aware of how to help solve the problems, and motivated to work toward their solution” – (NAAEE)

“… the process of recognizing values and clarifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary to understand and appreciate the interrelatedness among men, his culture and his biophysical surroundings. EE also entails practice in decision-making and self-formulation of a code of behaviour about issues concerning environmental quality. – International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN; 1971)

Environmental education increases public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues or problems. In doing so, it provides the public with the necessary skills to make informed decisions and take responsible action. Education.com

Environmental education teaches students about how the planet’s physical and biological systems work, and how we can create a more sustainable future. Ontario Ministry of Education

Environmental education is a process by which people develop awareness, concern and knowledge of the environment… and learn to use this understanding to preserve, conserve and utilize the environment in a sustainable manner for the benefit of present and future generations.
Environmental Management Bureau-DENR

It’s how we help people – of all ages – learn about environmental issues, either as part of their general curriculum based learning, or through specific activities.
Manchester City Council Environmental Services

Environmental education is the study of the relationships and interactions between dynamic natural and human systems.

What is your definition for environmental education?

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