A New Rural Discussion Series

Mary Doyle
Aug 10, 2018 · 3 min read

You can’t be an innovation junkie without being interested in Biomimicry. Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that “seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” We have pain-free needles now that have resulted from studying mosquitos, a cheaper means of cooling large buildings from studying termite mounds; even Velcro was created based on research of how burrs stick to a dog’s fur. Biomimicry isn’t new; Leonardo da Vinci famously made the first real studies on birds and human flight in the 1480s. Indigenous Peoples have always understood and had a relationship with Mother Earth.

Nature can be more than inspiration; with respect, reverence, curiosity and empathy we can learn from our natural environment and emulate time-tested patterns that may just save more than our small towns…they may even save our collective human souls.

Rural on Purpose is introducing a new series of Online Chats inspired by a natural phenomenon called a “murmuration.”

Aside from being a fun word to say out loud, a “murmuration” is a remarkable event involving a large group of birds that fly together. Murmurations have been described as “intelligent clouds,” “swirling liquid masses,” “aerial ballet” and “invisible flows of life energy. “ One witness observed, “It’s an awe-inspiring yet humbling first hand experience of nature.” Thousands of starlings roosting together will take flight in unison and move in a scale-free way, often in an evasive response to a predator. Thousands of birds change direction almost simultaneously.

What scientists know:

  • murmurations are systems “on the edge,” the way liquids turn to gas — completely transformed in an instant.
  • The birds coordinate their speed and direction with their 6 closest neighbours and that’s enough to steer the entire group (no matter how large — sometimes hundreds of thousands) in the same direction.

What about rural communities? Could we create similar intelligent clouds?

We are systems living on the edge, after all. What if we could be completely transformed in an instant the way a murmuration of birds is?

Mobilizing our global rural communities to move in the same direction may not be the impossible task we once thought.

Science sheds light on the mystery and the magic that is a murmuration. There is no grand master plan and there is no rehearsal — the magic occurs with changes happening 7 birds at a time. That’s good news if it works in human systems as well.

I don’t think there is any dispute about our common intention as community builders, which is to build thriving rural communities; if we start by coordinating our speed and direction with just 6 others, maybe we can emulate the majestic cohesion of a murmuration of starlings and transform our towns.

Science aside, if only as a metaphor for transformation through collaboration, it’s a hopeful one. I’m sure you’re doing amazing things already; please share your solutions and be a part of our global rural murmuration.

Register for our next murmurations chat.


photo credit: arripay <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/27466406@N00/31668610223">Studland starlings</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Mary Doyle

Written by

I build and pilot programs that support and promote entrepreneurship in rural communities. RuralOnPurpose.com

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