Thursday, July 7, 2016

Aspiring to be the drop

The owner of my gym posted this today and I've been thinking about this all day: it's an analogy for how we can make a difference by staying focused and taking actions in a slow and steady way.
"The weakest living creature, by concentrating his powers on a single object, can accomplish good results while the strongest, by dispersing his effort over many chores, may fail to accomplish anything. Drops of water, by continually falling, hone their passage through the hardest of rocks but the hasty torrent rushes over it with hideous uproar and leaves no trace behind." - Og Mandino.
Many of us working for social change find ourselves pulled in many directions. I continually wonder where my time and energy would have the most effect? When does a great idea start to take precedence over the good ones, and how do I prioritize? 

I have three primary goals with my work: 
  1. Improve the lives of people and all organisms in my bioregion;
  2. Choose projects that are financially sustainable; and 
  3. Be physically and mentally present for my family when they need me. 
That's it! It really shouldn't be as difficult as it has been to accomplish all three goals with each action I take, but trust me - it is. Most social justice initiatives do not pay at all or pay very little, so #1 and #2 can be in conflict. And accomplishing #3 is most times in conflict with #1 and #2. So what to do? Refer back to the quote:
"The weakest living creature, by concentrating his powers on a single object, can accomplish good results while the strongest, by dispersing his effort over many chores, may fail to accomplish anything."
Too often, I disperse my brainpower and efforts over many tasks - see my 3 goals above! But doing so accomplishes very little. My goal for the month of July is to focus on one goal and use the time I have to work toward that end.
"Drops of water, by continually falling, hone their passage through the hardest of rocks but the hasty torrent rushes over it with hideous uproar and leaves no trace behind."
I also need to remember that I am a drop. Too often, I am distracted by the latest catastrophe and rush to see how I can help with that, but my goal should be to keep focused and take actions that are slow and steady. I hope that by doing so, I will have the most impact in the long run.

Peace today and always,
Amy

Friday, May 27, 2016

Stories of a Place: Exploring Resilience Strategies at Home


My work is centered on understanding nature's resilience strategies and exploring ways that we can learn from them to embed resilience into human systems, such as communities, businesses, and our built environment. It's a fascinating topic that continually enriches my work life, and one that I am interested in exploring at home as well!

I have decided to make my home the test bed for how nature's resilience strategies can be showcased at home. Please follow what I plan will be a series of posts about my progress toward making a resilient (re)design of a suburban home, one that is inspired by the "Stories of our Place!"

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Contrast in Rain


I am a single drop of rain, falling from the sky


I fall fast and hard on a single leaf at the top of the forest canopy;
I break apart.
My daughters fall slower and softer on the leaves below;
Until they break apart.
My granddaughters fall slower and softer still;
Over and over;
Until they either rest on the leaves or fall to the soil, ready to venture down into the soil matrix where they are pulled up to through the tree to nourish it and be released into the air once more.


But if I fall in the city, my story is very different.

Instead of landing on many surfaces and being absorbed by the soil, I land on a hard roof or road.
I join my sister raindrops, travelling in a fast current and speeding up as if on a roller coaster, picking up leaves, debris, trash, chemicals, and topsoil and washing them away.
Faster and faster still, I travel at breakneck speed until I reach a river, and eventually the ocean.
I have fed no one;
I have polluted the river, the ocean;
And I have drained the fertility of the soil.

Water left on site feeds an ecosystem;
Water lost to runoff feeds no one.


But what if our buildings were more like trees, our streets more like the fertile soil?
They would drink me, clean me, store me, and eventually release me to the sky again!
Nourishing an ecosystem and the diversity of life.
By learning from the forest, our communities can do the same.

WE NEED NATURE. THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN.

- Amy Coffman Phillips

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Alone in the Wildness

I took a walk outside of a homestead farm this morning, just at daybreak. The farm is between the territory of two wolf packs, so I was warned to be on guard. As I walked, I felt my own fragility. I looked for rocks with which to defend myself or scare a wolf away, should it come to that. To be fair, I was never in any real danger - wolves don't normally encroach on human settlements unless they are desperate - but as a city gal, it had me considering my own survival more than I normally do!

It made me feel as though the whole biophilia concept is a luxury for those who are safely disconnected from nature and her wildness. But after a day of workshops, talking, and deeply listening and planning, it felt good to have such clarity of thought and purpose. I was on guard, but I felt alive and alert in ways I don’t normally. And it felt amazing to be alone and quiet after a day of constant human communication.

Singularity of purpose, solitude, and quiet are rarities in my life, and I treasure the moments when they come, despite the undercurrent of fear. It was life, it was wildness, and it was gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Nature Walk Among the Trees: Learning Multi-Functional Design from Nature

Educators are the ultimate multi-taskers! We are required to balance the needs and interests of students, parents, and administrators while teaching to many different sets of educational standards - and keeping it interesting for students (and us)! Because of this, we are always looking to get the most out of everything we do and every lesson plan must accomplish many goals at the same time. 
"It was fun measuring the tree and writing and coloring!"
- Camille, Kindergarten
Our “Nature Walk Among the Trees” lesson showcases our simple, yet powerful approach to fit in with various K-12 standards (STEM & NextGen Science) in a fun and thought provoking session that challenges students (and teachers) to think “outside the box” and learn about science in nature in a creative new way. Looking to biomimicry’s Life Principle to “use multi-functional design,” we showcase life’s multi-functional strategies as exemplified in a native tree. For example, leaves:
  • provide shade, 
  • transfer energy,
  • absorb carbon dioxide,
  • filter air,
  • self-cool, 
  • recycle nitrogen...
...all in one seemingly simple little package! What can we learn from life’s multi-functional strategies to design products and services that perform just as well?

Participants in our session will experience the class as their students would, learning about biomimicry’s life’s principles from a trained biomimic and learning from a curriculum designer how lessons from this course can fit within their current curriculum and fulfill requirements for a STEM and Next Generation Science Standards. Support materials will be provided that you can bring back and implement in your classroom. “A Nature Walk Among the Trees” is one of several courses we are creating to make it easy and fun to integrate biomimicry’s Life’s Principles into K-5 classes.

Register for the Biomimicry Educator's Summit in Austin, Texas, October 4th and learn more about our educational products on our website!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Biomimicry for the Designer: 101

Designers are continually looking for new and innovative ways to create beautiful, livable spaces that are environmentally responsible and, more recently, resilient to disturbances. Increasingly, designers on the leading edge are looking to nature for this inspiration, including HOK, Grimshaw and Exploration Architecture to name a few. Learn how biomimicry can contribute to the sustainability and resilience of the built environment in this short introductory video, and sign up for a Chicago Biomimicry Immersion through Prairie Lab to learn more!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nine Reasons Why Applying Biomimicry to Built Environment Projects is a Win-Win-Win!

Photo: ZlicovekShutterstock
Amy was recently asked to contribute to the Biomimicry Institute's new blog, Asking Nature. Check out her thoughts on "Nine Reasons Why Applying Biomimicry to Built Environment Projects is a Win-Win-Win!"
"Designers in the building industry are continually looking for new and innovative ways to create beautiful, livable spaces that are environmentally responsible and resilient. Increasingly, those on the leading edge are looking to nature as a source of inspiration. Here are nine examples of how applying biomimicry in the context of the built environment can help designers, projects, and communities as they work to create naturally sustainable, inherently resilient spaces."
Curious to learn more? Check out the next Chicago Biomimicry Immersive Workshop THIS SATURDAY! Enter promo code 'BioChi10' for 10% off the cost of registration!