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Thrive 2

How are we to thrive? By choosing with joy and compassion to
embrace a wider living-world that extends beyond physical death.

Ant Civilizations

The largest colony known in 2006 when the film Ants: Nature’s Secret Power was made was in Japan, where 306 million ants, with 1 million queens, lived in 45,000 colonies, which were spread over a square mile. Darwin in his 1871 book “The Descent of Man” describes the mental capabilities of ants: “Ants certainly communicate information to each other, and several unite for the same work, or for games of play. They recognize their fellow-ants after months of absence and feel sympathy for each other. They build great edifices, keep them clean, close the doors in the evening, and post sentries. They make roads as well as tunnels under rivers, and temporary bridges over them, by clinging together.”

Ask Nature

The feathers along the trailing edge of an owl’s wing have a specialized fringe that forces air to mix at specific locations, muffling the sound of air flowing around them. This allows owls to fly silently and soar efficiently to catch prey. Biome Renewables mimicked the feather edge for the outer portion of a turbine blade. As air rushes around the blades at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour, some of it curls down into the space between long, serrated teeth, generating one sound wave, and some of it curls down at the tips of the teeth, generating a second sound wave a moment later. The troughs of the first sound wave align with the peaks of the second and cancel each other out.

Bumblebee Smarts

Insect behavior has often been characterized as innate rather than as the result of learning. The Bumblebee Bombus terrestris, however, has proven otherwise. In a scientific experiment, the learning capability of these bees was put to the test in a two-option puzzle box. The behavior observed by the scientists was not the natural foraging behavior of these bees but instead involved solving a puzzle to obtain food. After one bee was trained to open the box and obtain the food, bees observing the success of the trained bee quickly learned how to open the box. Also, the box-opening technique spread throughout the colonies “seeded with a demonstrator.” The scientists performing the experiment conclude that the results “replicate those found in primates and birds.”

Cosmic Grace

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Historian and Catholic monk Thomas Berry embraced a new vision of the stars in our evolving universe: “Traditional language refers to unmerited love as grace, as love freely given. Stars, then, are bestowers of grace. They are bestowers of life. Our frozen imaginations struggle to see stars as bestowers of grace because we have convinced ourselves they are objects. While it is true that our ancestral stars did not know they were giving birth to us, it is wrong to say stars do not know. They do know. They know how to create carbon, silver, boron, and calcium. They know how to participate in the ongoing development of the universe. They know how to fulfill their role in this spectacular process.”

Humpback Altruism

Several killer whales were trying to catch a Weddell seal that had taken refuge atop a drifting patch of Antarctic ice. The orcas swam alongside each other, creating a wave that knocked the hapless pinniped into the water. Death seemed certain. Then something amazing happened: A pair of humpback whales turned up. As the panicked seal swam toward them, a lucky wave tossed it onto the chest of the closer, upturned whale. The whale arched its chest out of the water, which kept the seal away from the charging killer whales. And when the seal started to fall off, the whale carefully pushed it back onto its chest with a flipper. Soon after that, the seal scrambled to safety on another ice floe.

Inspired by Nature

Dorna Schroeter was already teaching environmental education when reading “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” by Janine Benyus prompted her to incorporate biomimicry into her teaching. “It was solution-based,” she says, “and changed my view of how I taught about the natural world. Instead of seeing nature as a warehouse for human use, biomimicry taught me to view it as an encyclopedia of information.” The resource bundles on AskNature provide really easy-to-understand stories about organisms, illustrations, great videos, and lesson plans.” I always tell teachers and students: give yourself time to explore it because you’ll get on it and go exploring for hours and lose track of time. It really is a unique, great resource.”

Kilmer: Trees

I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest,
against the earth’s sweet flowing breast.

A tree that looks at God all day,
and lifts her leafy arms to pray.

A tree that may in Summer wear,
a nest of robins in her hair . . .

Living Hope

Ecologist Rick Lindroth is an evangelical Christian who knows that only 54 percent of White evangelicals believe burning fossil fuels has caused global warming. He admits: “For most of my life, I’ve lived under an existential cloud of despair. We have the tools,” he asserts. “All we need is the motivation to act.” Lindroth recognizes the importance of scientific research that documents the threats of climate change but argues that “there is a greater need for public discussion that nurtures a love for nature.” Every year, he and his wife, Nancy, take an action that will reduce their carbon footprint. In 2022 they installed in their home a more energy efficient heating and air conditioning system that cost them $13,000.

Slime Mold Learning

A group of slime molds was taught to cross a bridge without salt. Next, half of those slime molds were exposed to a bridge with salt. They were repelled at first, but eventually crossed anyway. The other half were not exposed to a salt bridge. When both groups were later given a chance to cross a salt bridge, the slime molds that had experience with a salt bridge traveled across the “yuck” to get to the “yum” more quickly than the others. Then, when a slime mold that had learned to tolerate the salt in order to reach the treat merged with another slime mold, the second slime mold also readily crossed the salt bridge.

Sparxell Pigments

The Biomimicry Institute has awarded the 2023 Ray of Hope Prize to Sparxell, a UK-based startup. Sparxell has developed the first environmentally sustainable, non-toxic pigments, glitters, sequins and films. Inspired by structural color found in nature, such as that of a butterfly wing or peacock feather, their patented manufacturing technique transforms cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) into uniformly reflective, highly dispersible particles with state-of-the-art performance. The pigments are a fully biodegradable, easier to source alternative with an unlimited range of vibrant colors. Because they can tune the structural color pigments to reflect specific bands of light, their pigments even enable new types of color. All this is possible while adhering to the recent EU regulations on microplastics like glitter.

View of Eternity

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Psychiatrist and near-death researcher Raymond Moody reports in his 2016 book, “Glimpses of Eternity: Sharing a Loved One’s Passage from this Life to the Next,” on “shared death experiences” involving physicians, nurses, and other professionals providing care for patients in hospital and hospice environments. These shared experiences involve “extraordinary knowing” by healthy persons and often scientifically trained persons. There is scientific evidence for an afterlife. The shared death experiences that Moody and Kübler-Ross report involve sensory experience affirmed by hospice caregivers who are not on drugs or overwhelmed by their feelings as relatives of dying loved ones might be. They are professionals who have witnessed many deaths, and they confirm the dying are entering “another state of being.”

Your Microbiome

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Biologists John Cryan and Ted Dinan at the University College Cork in Ireland have confirmed: “It’s hard to overstate how important friendly microbes are to your health. They cover every inch of your skin and are particularly numerous in your colon. We’re talking about pounds of bacteria, tens of trillions of the tiny creatures, but that’s what it takes to protect us from the even greater numbers of microbes that surround us.” Actually, “Only one percent of your genes are human, and those genes are fairly stable, but your microbial genes—the other 99 percent—are in constant flux. Measured by your genes, you’re a different creature each and every morning.”

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