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What Would Nature Do? Lebanese Schoolgirls Teach Science Forum About Biomimicry

Let’s face it — science can be dull unless you are one of the initiated. Algorithms, -ologies, impact studies and “heterogenous substitutability” don’t get everyone’s juices flowing.

It is with some delight to all, therefore, that the grizzled professors and their super-intelligent 30-something researchers attending the World Biodiversity Forum  have been joined by eight 16-year old schoolgirls from Lebanon. They are here to tell everyone that nature can teach people the best way to do things. It is called biomimicry (it is a science meeting after all).

The young women – plus a 17-year old documentarian – all attend the College de Notre Dame de Jamhour, a Jesuit school outside Beirut. But the group – which calls itself Beirut Biomimics – is at the Forum in Davos, Switzerland, under the auspices of the Born Global Foundation, which is run by one of the member’s mother, Dr Kimberly Samaha.

The group has taken one of the Forum’s corridors by storm , standing in front of their poster – one of the clearest on display, actually – with matching Beirut Biomimics sweat shirts. They explain to all  that when you face a problem in the environment you should ask “What would nature do?”.

“We can really make a change,” said Aya Maria Boulos, one of the group.

The idea of biomimicry is that nature has its own solutions that humans can mimic. So, the group took solar panels as the base of their research, discovered that keeping them clean was a problem, and sought out the kind of microfilms that plants use to keep their leaves clean. This would do away with any toxic cleaning process and might even be more efficient (one natural microfilm they came across even enhanced electric transmission).

Many of the attendees and organisers of the Forum smile broadly when the group is mentioned – it is proof that although the world is degrading, many of the young are excited to protect it and reverse the trend.

The young women themselves are clearly learning too by attending the Forum, at its invitation. “It has helped me learn to explain things to people,” said Maria Bechara.

Old guard, take note.

(The others in the group are Chloe Samaha, Catarina Sahyoun, Celine El Feghaly, Sylvie Bejjani, Amalie Zard, Angelina Farah and the documentarian, Tia Samaha).

Jeremy Gaunt is a freelance writer covering the World Biodiversity Forum for Future Earth